Is Your Church Building Multipurpose-Less?

While during my time with Visioneering Studios (by the way, if you had not heard, I am no longer with Visioneering but providing consulting services via Cool Solutions Group … more on that in a future blog … call or email me to learn more), there was a term that I learned that is not only funny, but relevant—Multi-Useless Building/Room/Space.

The first time I heard this term, I laughed out loud … seriously. When I heard it, I knew exactly what it meant, as I have seen this reality too many times.

Since the 1970s, many well-meaning churches have gravitated to what was referenced as the “multipurpose” building/room/space. The impetus of this gravitational pull was the idea that we could design and build a facility that could be all things to all people. 

At a 30,000-foot level, this seemed a reasonable premise. Land and construction costs were getting so expensive that we needed to look for ways to get everything done in less space. We came to realize that in a church body, with lots of activities and community ministry opportunities, we could not afford, as stewards of what God has entrusted to us, to have facilities that sat empty six of the seven days each week.

I get it. I can see the reasoning and can understand the heart behind this shift in facility design and function. In fact, if I had been blogging in 1980, I am sure I could have made a compelling argument as to its viability.

But … is it really the right approach? Is it the best “tool” to fulfill your vision and mission? Does it communicate your unique story? Does it facilitate ministry and community and further the culture of your church?

Or … is it really “Multi-Useless”?

Here is a common discussion of a church leadership team and/or the dreaded building “committee”:

Our ministry is growing and we need to be able to have enough seats for 400 to 500 people for worship.

But … we also want to have a sports ministry and a place for our youth to meet … so let’s build a gymnatorium, sanctinasium, gymtuary or the like … that will kill two birds with one stone.

Great idea … but because we are going to worship in it, we cannot have hardwood floors and it needs to feel “churchy,” so we need to figure out how to hide the basketball goals and add some elements that will say “church” to our people.

But, we also want to serve meals and have fellowship time, so we need to make sure the floor is made of a material that is easy to clean up spills. And the wall materials need to be “soft” enough that it feels more welcoming that just a gym.

OK … but the women’s ministry wants to have bridal showers and wedding receptions, so we need the room to have nicely painted walls that feel more like a banquet hall and not a gym.

What about the sound system? How will we protect the speakers, lights and console? Any what about the acoustics?

Don’t forget, if we are using this building for outreach, we must have bleachers, a scoreboard and access to it for practice and games every weeknight and all day Saturday.

On and on the conversations go … compromise after compromise. We try to be all things to all people.

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Tim Cool
Tim Cool is the Founder and Chief Solutions Officer of Cool Solutions Group, a company dedicated to Facility Stewardship and Project Facilitation for church development projects nationwide.