What if the church could gather in the hearts of our cities and towns, rather than in suburban industrial parks, separated behind seas of asphalt parking lots? What if the church could be a center of the community seven days a week rather than seven hours a week?
Churches everywhere, with congregations ranging from 500–50,000, are looking for new ways to get the locations they want by using creative capital rather than just financial capital. One of the largest scale examples of this is New Creation Church in Singapore. This forward-thinking church recently paid off its new multimillion-dollar custom-built facility located in the heart of the city. This prime location was made possible because the facility was created to have sustainable income.
This is the dream scenario for most churches—to be at the center of their city’s activity. The massive undertaking is, in fact, scalable and applicable for every church that’s looking to expand, even if it isn’t to a $500 million facility.
In order to facilitate this development as well as to separate legal and financial liabilities, New Creation Church started a business entity called Rock Productions Pte Ltd. in 1998. This company owns a few different subsidiaries, including a travel and tour company, an inspirational bookstore and Shine Auditorium, located inside Shaw Tower in the central business district.
A few years ago, Rock Productions identified a tract of land to develop and create the flagship auditorium for New Creation Church. The land was next to a metro line, which was not only good for bringing in members, but it also meant that Rock Productions could consider adding a retail zone within their future complex. They chose to partner with retail conglomerate CapitaLand Mall Asia Ltd. to co-develop a mixed-use facility that contains a shopping mall with 260,000 square feet of retail space and a concert venue named The Star Performing Arts Centre. The performing arts center is comprised of a 5,000-seat auditorium, a 700-seat reception space and a 300-seat outdoor amphitheater.
The design features sweeping lines, sharp points and large supporting columns. The exterior of white panels, glass and steel reaches 16 stories high. The entire building sits on a massive parking garage. The mall is terraced and designed to flow in a way that makes it easier for customers to find their way around. Its open-air design in the retail section saves on 30 percent of air conditioning costs. CapitaLand Mall Asia specified a mix of 60 percent restaurants to 40 percent retail, allowing the building to host many open spaces for dining. This works well for New Creation Church’s desire to allow its members to mingle after Sunday service.
The church rents the performing arts center from Rock Productions for its Sunday services. During the rest of the week, The Star Performing Arts Centre functions as a concert hall that has been rented by celebrity pop stars such as Harry Styles, Shawn Mendes and Fifth Harmony. Rock Productions separates itself by clearly stating, “The Star PAC should not be misconstrued or misunderstood as having NCC approving of its artistic presentation or endorsing the lifestyle of the performer.”
How does this ambitious project translate to smaller churches? The takeaway is that it is time to get creative in developing a place people want to go and in establishing ourselves at the hearts of our communities.
Globally, pastors are getting smart about their costs and their location without compromising the quality of their Sundays. In the recent past, multisite churches started springing up, renting space from schools, theaters and strip malls. However, renting is neither a sustainable way to grow nor is it financially wise long-term. Owning a multimillion-dollar facility on the outskirts of town is still feasible, but as more churches move into urban areas, they are coming up with creative ways to finance their buildings.
This is the hot topic among leaders of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the world. They know they can’t go to the heart of the biggest cities in the world and build a building that is going to be used for one hour a week on Sunday. It’s not practical.
But it’s not just the leaders of the largest churches that are having this conversation—it’s applicable across all churches that want to be active in their communities and good stewards of God’s money. As I write this, we are redesigning a struggling shopping mall in North Dakota that a church has purchased and is in the process of redeeming as a center for its community.
Being at the heart of the community is what God intended for the church. Now, more than ever, incredible opportunities exist for churches of all sizes to step in and be an anchor for their cities. Whether in high-tech Singapore or rural North Dakota, the church is getting creative in the use of its finances and wise in its designs to return to where God created us to be—at the thriving heart of our communities.