After Christianity was “legalized,” buildings began to take on an increasing importance. In many cases, cathedrals and monuments were so ornate as to re-initiate the idea that the presence of God, or at least a facsimile of heaven could be housed in an inanimate structure. Down through history there has always been the tension of building design vs. building functionality. Design would lean toward honoring God through aesthetics and function would lean toward gaining as much additional space as possible for added membership.
Times, however, are changing. Modern church design is much less about bricks and mortar and much more about innovation and connection. Decisions about colors and textures are giving way to decisions about networks and virtual broadcasting. And this is great news for those who want to grow without entering into a major building campaign.
For example it is now possible to…Start another service. Thousands of churches are seeing the benefits of adding a second or third or even sixth service on the weekend. Logistical concerns are much easier to deal with than the burden of a major debt load for a new structure.
Add video projection. Some churches have an existing area of their building that could be converted to overflow space quite easily. With a modest investment in video technology, services could be broadcast either concurrently or at a later date. One church outside of Chicago actually has no teaching pastor. Every service their worship team leads worship and then Bill Hybels is projected on the screen to deliver the sermon.
Research shows that a huge number of people begin their search for religion online. Instead of making your church web site an overblown bulletin, why not broadcast the Good News to the world? Your church site could be a portal for thousands to hear the gospel message at a fraction of the cost of media broadcast.
Teach via the internet. Many churches lament the fact that their classrooms aren’t adequate for their Christian education needs. Why not leverage your best teachers and re-broadcast their lessons on the internet for those who want to learn at their own pace on their own time? Additionally, the recorded sessions could be used for live or re-broadcast in your existing facility any time throughout the week.
Of course, with any shifts like the ones above, ministry paradigm shifts must also occur. One of the most significant that will take place as churches begin to implement new ministry offerings, is the shift to buy people in place of buildings. While buildings will always be needed for shelter, advances in technology are allowing us to invest in people that can leverage that technology in creative ways. Less dollars are spent for structures, and more dollars are available for ministry. And, as younger generations begin to take the mantle of leadership they will also be much more comfortable with both real and virtual presentations.
So don’t retreat from growth because of prohibitive building costs. Ask God for innovative, creative ways to grow through the emerging tools with which He has blessed us. Remember the difference between the method and the Message.
About the author: Since 1983, Jim Couchenour has partnered with hundreds of churches to design and build new facilities through his work with Cogun, Inc. He is currently developing ways to bridge the gap between church and the unchurched. He can be reached at 800-258-5540. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.