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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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What our church buildings say about us

If your church owns its building, it’s possible you’ll be hiring it out at least occasionally. Parents and toddlers, Pilates, clubs and interest groups – there are a whole lot of people looking for suitable places to meet.  

As we let others in, our buildings can say a lot about us and what we think is important. They aren’t just a good source of income; they can also provide opportunities for the gospel. For those of us who work there, they can be a ‘frontline’, an ordinary place where we regularly engage with those who don’t follow Jesus. And that means we need to make sure our buildings are both serving us well and helping us make and grow disciples.  

We can communicate the gospel in the conversations we have with the people who regularly use our buildings, of course, but the buildings themselves can also communicate something of our values – or, if we’re not careful, contradict them.  

Using the 6Ms as a framework, for example, we can ask whether our building, reflects values such as making good work (being well-maintained, tidy and easy to use), or ministering grace and love (a welcoming space that says that the people who use the building matter, saying we care as much about them as the income they might generate).  

If you’re considering how you can better engage people through your church building, here are some questions to discuss at your leadership meetings.

How well do we know the people using our buildings?  

  • Who uses our facilities? 
  • How often do they use them? 
  • What do they use them for?  
  • Who’s their main contact in the church?  
  • What could we do to get to know the hirers personally if possible?  

What do hirers think of us?  

  • Have hirers ever been asked for feedback on the facilities?  
  • What kind of relationship do we have with hirers?  
  • Are we easy to interact with? How well do we respond to enquiries?  

What do our facilities say about us?  

  • When was the last time the building or rooms were decorated or cleared?  
  • How easy is it for hirers to use the building? What access issues might people have? 
  • What do our posters, displays, and noticeboards say about our priorities? Is there any indication that Christian faith applies to what happens Monday to Friday as well as on Sunday?   
  • Is our garden or outside space maintained well and inviting?  

Buildings are great servants but terrible masters. They can be expensive and difficult to maintain. They can be labour intensive. And they’re not our primary focus: we’re in the b of building up disciples for all of life, not working on buildings. But it’s worth considering how our buildings reflect our values as disciples, and how they can be useful servants in making and growing disciples.  

Make sure you have a church leaders’ meeting in the place you hire out from time to time and ask good questions of what this building says about Jesus, his followers, and his good news. 

Jules Gadsby
Church Engagement Specialist

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