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Is Your Church Facility an Obstacle?

Check out the interior of national chain stores in your neighborhood (grocery, pharmacy, clothing, restaurants, etc.). On average, retail businesses remodel their facilities every four to seven years, and with good reason. There’s something about “new.” New additives to toothpaste, new vitamin potency in cereal, new styles in cars, new versions of software. “New” attracts. By contrast, most churches renovate their facilities every 25-40 years; some go even longer without an extreme home make-over.

If your church building is over 15 years old, it is probably a growth-restricting obstacle.

When it comes to church visitors, you don’t have a second chance for a good first impression. And one of the first impressions visitors have of your church is its building; first the outside, then the inside. Visitors don’t need to be professional architects to sense that the ceiling is too low, the halls too narrow, the windows outdated or the color schemes from a different generation. Marshal McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message.” Your building is the medium.

The design and architecture of your church actually has a much more important influence on your visitors than it does on your regular attendees. Why? The longer a person is at your church, the less he or she is able to see the building through the eyes of a newcomer. Members don’t notice the rain marks in the ceiling, the chipped paint on the wall, the hole in the carpet.

And for long-time attendees, those things don’t really matter because they are coming for the people, the relationships, the fellowship, the spiritual growth—not the facilities. But for visitors with none of these reasons to attend, other things shape their first impressions—and your building is one of them.

Facilities also have an effect on a church’s corporate self-esteem. The effect is similar to the way your house or apartment subtly influences your own self-esteem. If you live with junk in the backyard, unwashed dishes in the sink, dirty clothes on the floor, rooms in need of paint it affects your self-image, whether you know it or not.

With such an appearance, do you want company dropping in unannounced? Probably not. When you are expecting guests, you probably pick up your clothes, clean the kitchen and put on your house’s best face. Why not have the same attitude about your church facility and the guests who are coming to visit God’s house?

While nice facilities won’t cause your church to grow, poor facilities can prevent it from growing.

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Charles Arn is Visiting Professor of Outreach at the new Wesley Seminary (Marion, IN). He has written twelve books in the field of congregational health and growth, including What Every Pastor Should Know (2013) and Side Door (2013).