5. A “third place” area draws people to a church building.
A “third place” area is a social gathering point, such as a coffee shop, outside the usual community environments of work and home. As the importance of these gathering areas grows in our society, churches that provide places for the community to socialize throughout the week are much better positioned to reach the unchurched people in their neighborhoods.
6. Church gyms are not appealing to the unchurched.
Many pastors hear their members saying that building a gym will help attract the unchurched in their community. Our research, however, found the exact opposite to be true—one of the church areas considered least important to the unchurched was a gym. In general, gyms or fitness centers serve their current membership and have little effect on attracting the unchurched.
7. The church building is rarely a cause of conflict.
Our research dispelled the axiom that church facilities or building programs are major instigators of church conflict. We found little to no conflict directly attributed to the church building. Additionally, the formerly unchurched people we interviewed perceived little conflict surrounding the church facilities.
8. The church building aids evangelistic efforts.
A building is certainly not a necessity piece in obeying the evangelism imperative, but appealing church facilities can increase a newly churched person’s comfort level in inviting others to church. This invitation plays a huge role in the process of seeing people come to Christ. Our research demonstrates that the most evangelistically successful churches have facilities that people perceive as attractive.
Pastors and lay leaders can learn valuable lessons about their church building by viewing it through the eyes of the unchurched. Invite someone from the community who has never visited your church and ask them to write a step-by-step narrative of their experience in your church building and worship service. You may be surprised at what they say about your signage, seating, navigation, and other aesthetics. What’s more, they may give you some fresh ideas on how to better draw visitors to your church.
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.
Sam S. Rainer III serves as a pastor at Sarasota Baptist Church. Sam is the co-author of the recently released book, Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts. He also serves as president of Rainer Research, a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He is a frequent conference speaker on church health issues. Sam enjoys hanging out with friends and family in the Florida sunshine.
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