As weekly attendance has decreased for many established churches, it has become more apparent that the church building is no longer conducive to what the church needs today. Any change brings both pushback and positive excitement about what is coming. It depends on which side of the fence you are viewing the shift.
Throughout Scripture, men and women sought change, not for change’s sake, but to redeem what God had initially birth. So, too, the church is still called to adapt and move forward into the present future God has for the local church. Change, while scary, can be rewarding if the church is willing to redeem spaces for guests that are currently underutilized or not at all.
Reclaim the Past and Bring It Into the Future.
The campus of the local church is ripe with history. With such a rich history comes fiefdoms who hold onto past practices, room assignments, and furniture that become small idols within the church. When redeeming a space to prepare for the future, a leader must navigate the minefield of the glory days to reclaim what God wants to do today.
While the footprint of a traditional church building does not have to change, the inside workings, from room designations to the sanctuary’s design, might have to change to fit the new ideas and new era that the church has entered. Instead of thinking about the church as “mine,” begin to look at the church as a place of “yet to be.” The local church can still celebrate the past but be focused on the present needs by preparing for the future.
In my local church, we are reclaiming a small hallway to turn it into a museum of the past. We will place plaques, pictures, etc., in this space to honor who we have been, but we are going to redesign the inside of the church footprint by turning classrooms into a coffee house and a mission center where we collect and pack items for missional outreach programs.
Be creative with your current space by being Christ to the people inside the church, knowing change is not easy, but always look towards what guests or the community needs outside the church and dream of what could be in the redesigned space.
Repair to Present a Good Face Forward.
When you see the local church through guests’ eyes, you begin to see the church’s needs. How often have you or the local church prayed for guests who come and do not stay? Is it because you did not prepare the church for guests? Sometimes it is about cleaning around a classroom or taking away items from the foyer to prepare for the guests who will come.
As you begin reviewing your current space, you will likely see things you have become accustomed to over time. Deferred maintenance issues will come to the forefront, and a plan must be devised to begin to tackle the problems. Having a plan is the first step, but the project has to be acted upon and not debated for all eternity. By dividing up the repair plan, you can lessen the overwhelming list of small jobs that can be tackled with the right resources and actions.
Think about it this way: If a guest were coming to your home, you would probably straighten things up, clean out the cobwebs from the corners of the rooms, dust, throw out trash, and move items that don’t belong. That is what repairing to present a good face is all about. It is preparing for the guests that will come through your doors and being ready to welcome them entirely with a clean, organized, and good repair facility.
Restore What Has Been Lost.
The established church has faced a lot of losses over the years—a lack of attendance, decreased giving, fewer children and a lack of community engagement. But through it all, God has remained. Have you ever asked yourself; why have I stayed through all the change? Most likely, it has been because of God. God has called you and the people around you to the church you serve. It is not by accident but by divine appointment that God has kept you in a place of such challenge. Yet, in the challenging season, God is still working.
As you begin to view the church campus as a connecting point (jump-off point) for community engagement, you begin to see where God is challenging your leadership to step up and out of its spiritual comfort zone to reach the lost of the community. The God you serve is a big God. Trust him and yourself as you lead the people forward in restoring what has been lost.
Retire Programs That Don’t Fit Today’s Vision.
Do you have enough people to run the programs you currently have listed in the directory? Most likely not, and your church is not alone. Instead of offing a programmatic cafeteria-style listing for everyone, focus on what you can do well to reach the most people. That may mean that programs that were successful 25 years ago will have to be retired, and those resources of people and funding are put into a new area.
Focus on what the church has and evaluate if it meets the community’s needs. If it doesn’t, then the church needs to pivot by placing resources where God can make the most use of what the church has.
As programs are retired, it is an opportunity to celebrate what God has done through the church in the past. Highlight people who have helped lead the programs in the past to let them know what they have done has brought value to the kingdom as the church celebrates its history. Lay out the new program and highlight leaders who will lead the programs in the future. Have the former programmatic leaders pray over the new leaders to show the continuity of service to the local church and the broader community.
By retiring programs that no longer fit today’s culture, you begin to extend the community to another generation through slight modifications and programs that reach today’s Christ followers.
Renew Your Commitment to Reaching Neighbors.
There was a time when the church could open its doors three times a week, and the parking lot would be filled. Today, many churches have no young families. Even amid decline, there is hope found in Christ. You can ot go back and change yesterday, but you can begin again today. Renew the church’s commitment to reach your neighbors by finding out the needs of those around you and moving toward addressing those needs.
Outside the walls of the established church is a community that is all but forgotten. The church was once a part of their lives, but they do not know who the neighbors are today. By reconnecting through listening, learning the needs and addressing the community needs with the church’s neighbors, you will bring the church back to the forefront of what has been missing, which is a deep community connection.
Guests can move to become members if the church is willing to redeem its current space for the future needs of the community. Redeeming the church’s footprint for guests is not a new program or a quick fix. But a partnership with God and his people inside and outside the church. A partnership to live like Christ not just on Sundays but throughout the week with the church and her neighbors walking hand-in-hand.