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The NEW Rules for Church Buildings

The following is an excerpt from Church Locality: New Rules for Church Buildings in a Multisite, Church-Planting, Giga-Church World.

Today, there are new factors that are dramatically shifting the way we build and utilize church facilities. 

The emergence of multisite strategies, resurgence of church planting and the exponential growth of giga-churches are changing the church building conversation. Growing churches today are utilizing existing commercial facilities, repurposing existing church buildings and constructing community-friendly facilities to reproduce themselves for greater outreach and impact.

In Church Locality we have compiled practical articles to help church leaders when thinking about buildings and site selection for new campuses, church plants and church construction. It’s about being good stewards and making the best use of these places where visible communities of faith gather together. Where we do church and how we utilize facilities for church makes a big difference in how we are the church in the community.

When Jesus said to the disciples, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18), he was not referring to bricks and mortar but to flesh and blood. Our human nature wants to build something tangible as an act of worship. Peter’s response on the Mt. of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus is the typical human reaction, “Let’s put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:33).

Jesus was talking about a spiritual kingdom comprised of his followers who will expand his kingdom by proclaiming good news and performing good works in his name. The church is not a building. The church is people.

Jesus did not say, “Go build a building.”

He said, “Build my church.”

There is a big difference.

Though the church is a universal and spiritual reality, it also has a visible and physical expression. Whenever those followers get together in His name, they meet in a place. They are the ecclesia “assembly,” a tangible expression of the body of Christ. This place becomes sacred space not because of location or architecture but because Jesus is present with them in a spiritual and corporate sense.

Some of the New Rules:

  • The technological revolution has extended church impact beyond the walls of a building and geographic location.
  • The multisite revolution liberated churches from overbuilding unsustainable mega-campuses.
  • The economic recession liberated churches from excessively expensive building campaigns. 
  • The decline in church attendance is forcing churches to build community-centric, multipurpose and environmentally-friendly facilities.
  • The church planting resurgence is retro-fitting existing commercial facilities and will build smaller church facilities with multiple venues. 
  • The church merger trend is redeeming and recycling existing church buildings for renewed use. 

One of the most amazing and consistent facts about church attendance is that the majority of church-goers live within a 15-minute drive of their church building. The rest live within 30 minutes.

If you don’t believe it, just ask the next time you are with a group of church goers how many live within 15 minutes of their church, then 30 minutes. Only a very few, if any, will drive more than 30 minutes to church.

Though most churches have national and international initiatives—the majority of their time, money and energy is spent on people who live within 15 minutes driving time. Why? All ministry (or at least most of it) is local.

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Jim Tomberlin is founder and senior strategist of MultiSite Solutions, a company dedicated to assisting churches in multiplying their impact. Over three decades of diverse ministry, Jim has pastored a church in Germany, grown a megachurch in Colorado and pioneered the multisite strategy for Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Jim is the author of “125 Tips for MultiSite Churches” and co-author of “Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work.” Jim is based in Scottsdale, AZ. You can email him directly at jim@multisitesolutions.com, subscribe to his MultiSightings blog or follow him on Twitter at @MultiSiteGuy or @MergerGuru.