Monday, October 1, 2012

Using Church Buildings as Outreach Tools – Part Two

In my previous post (read here) I wrote how churches should use their buildings as an outreach tool. I want to elaborate more on that theme in this post by specifically talking about how unchurched people often view a church facility.

Most unchurched people, especially those who are younger, want a church building to be clean and fresh because they have become accustomed to such environments in their workplaces, schools, and homes, but they do not want to see a church building that is overly luxurious because it bothers them that money was spent on fancy buildings when there are so many poor people in the world. Churches should be careful about the use of ornate chandeliers and stained-glass windows or other displays of wealth that do not have a useful function. While a clean bathroom
floor is essential, gold-plated faucets are actually a hindrance to reaching people with a postmodern perspective. Therefore, churches must think carefully about doing endless rounds of renovations to their buildings.

Incidentally, this same principle does not apply to extremely old church buildings. People realize that in the past, many churches were built in a Gothic style. Somehow that does not bother them, and they view such an architectural style as a legitimate sacred space. If churches already own an older building with more ornate features, they do not need to get rid of them. But church leaders need to remember that young people struggle to see the need for fancy new contemporary church buildings and additions that have an abundance of features for which there is no useful purpose.

Younger people expect lots of technology to be available in buildings they use, including church buildings. To them, projectors for PowerPoint presentations and screens for watching videos are standard items for any large group gathering. When the church does not have them, they often do not understand why. Many small churches do not see the need for that level of technology, but they might want to reconsider their views. Though churches may be limited in how much money they can invest in technology at one time, it would be helpful for them to develop a technology plan and acquire what they need over time. Allowing that technology to be utilized not only in church services but also in meetings and events the community holds in the church building will speak positively to young people who question the relevance of the church anyway.

Despite their size, many small churches are often blessed with good facilities. Though small churches may not have all the facilities they wish they had, they often have the perfect facilities for hosting community events. While there will obviously be some limits on the types of community meetings churches will be willing to host in their buildings, the more churches can say yes, the better it will be for their growth. If churches can keep their facilities looking nice without being overly opulent, if they can encourage community groups to use their buildings, and if they can engage those groups relationally, they may be surprised at how successful an outreach tool their buildings can be.

Adapted from Dr. Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.