Creative Church Buildings…What Do You Think?

HLF – St Paul Old Ford from Hunter Gatherer on Vimeo.

Watch this video then tell me what you think?

The use of the building…

The funds used to do it…

Is this a good thing or not?

This is a church that some of our college students worked with during the Olympics. They were impressed with the people and their vision for outreach. It impresses me also.

It did raise some questions for me though. For example, is this precedent setting for what we may see in years to come in the United States? I know a lot of churches that are declining in numbers. They have more building space than people to use and upkeep. Could this be a future option here? I know some churches who are getting more creative with how they use their space. I like that part of this.

I love public use of church buildings. I am advocating that more for the church I pastor. It makes sense. It brings people who may never come otherwise into the church building. It gives the general public an appreciation for the church buildings and gives the church people encounters with unchurched people.

I am wondering, however, what happens when outside funds…even government (lottery) funds keep the doors open? I do see concerns with that. Does it make a difference that these are lottery funds? What ramifications do you see? What problems? What opportunities?

Do we treat our church buildings as too sacred…or not sacred enough?

I’m just thinking and wrestling with what these type arrangements mean for the church long-term.

What do you think?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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20 thoughts on “Creative Church Buildings…What Do You Think?

  1. "Do we treat our church buildings as too sacred…or not sacred enough?"
    "I’m just thinking and wrestling with what these type arrangements mean for the church long-term."

    Europe has some magnificent church buildings that are now little more than well-kept museums. The services are attended by a handful of elderly women. And sadly, there is little evidence of God being worshipped or the saints being equipped.

    On the other hand, some of the best evidence of God's power is found in Christians with dilapidated church buildings or with no church buildings at all, like the underground church in China.

    At the end of the day, I suspect that if we are walking according to God's purpose, spiritual structures will have played a more important role in our lives than physical structures.

    Here's some insight from a man who God used to build both spiritual and physical structures:

    “God’s plan is there shall be none of self and all of Christ. The very people who are doing the most for God in saving souls, in mission work, in the care of orphans, are those who are working on short supplies of strength, of money, of talents, of advantages, and are kept in a position of living by faith and taking from God, day by day both physical and spiritual supplies. This is the way God succeeds and gains conquests over His own people, and over the unbelief of those who look on His providences.” – George Muller

  2. Not much I can add to this discussion Ron. My concerns about public funding have already been addressed. My desire to see the church building used for the community have already been addressed (by you and others).
    A local church has allowed PFLAG to use their community center for meeting. I am okay with that. But they have been overtaken and absorbed by a more militant Spencer PRIDE and have caused some strife among the pastors of this community. One comment said each building must be looked at on its own. What St Paul has done not all can do. One more thought: we have for far too long called the church building the church. Time to erase that from our vocab. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  3. Ron my friend that is an exceptional use of a church building but while it may well be suggest a way for others to go. It possibly is not the the way for all buildings. The mandate for all such programs is to be found in Fathers will and each may be different to the next because of the needs specific to that place and the limitations implied to that particular structure.

  4. Clearly it's a good thing for all sorts of reasons: restoration of a beautiful building, new resource in the community for various agencies, etc.
    But…
    Using HLF funds for the restoration makes more sense in England where the Queen is also the head of the church. In the U.S., that would be much more problematic.
    And…
    I would argue that all the nifty–and photogenic–social programs now housed in St. Paul Old Ford are what the church should have been doing in the East End all along. Perhaps if the church had lived up to its calling in that community, it wouldn't have fallen into disrepair in the first place.

  5. Ron,

    Great post and what a great story. Thanks for sharing it. The next time I'm in the UK I'm going to check it out.

    I love what they are doing. I think churches should find more ways to connect their space with the community. Mark Batterson at NCC is a great example of a church doing that.

    Our church hosts community groups all the time. We'll host a mobile homeless shelter in a couple of weeks. We've had an AA group use our space for over 35 years. And we recently became a election polling center for the local neighborhood. This past election we handed out 600 cups of coffee and 500 KK Donuts.

    Not sure how I feel about lottery money but I do believe in creative financing for ministries.

  6. I agree with the move toward outside use of church buildings. I think the concerns addressed in the first two comments are a result of thinking of the need for a "church" building in the first place. Why does the church even need a building?

    I have actually thought a lot about developers creating multi-use retail/commercial space designed for small businesses during the work week and fellowships on the weekends and evenings. If the church wasn't the entity having to manage/own the building, why/how would government force the church using the space to do anything against its beliefs or principles.

    Ultimately, this discussion has the context of how does church happen in an increasingly constricting culture. I think organizational property is one thing that has a lot of strings attached to it that perhaps the church will soon realize it doesn't need to fulfill its purpose.

  7. I'm about to embark on my new journey as a church planter. Years ago I spent a summer working with kids in a theatre program sponsored by and held at a local Jewish Community Center. I loved the program, the people, and their facility, which was multi-purposed as a place for their community to connect, express, and grow. From the theatre to the gyms, classrooms library, cafe, school, etc., this place served as an inviting hub to help enrich the lives of those in the community.

    As I've dreamed about what the church, and a church facility, could be I find myself drawn to this concept of a 24/7 non-traditional ministry community center; a space open to anyone and everyone wherein they have an opportunity to encounter the extraordinary love of Christ through ordinary everyday activities. Expensive to do? Very. Beyond God's capabilities? Certainly not. Should it be done? Possibly… Lord willing. Perhaps a 24/7 community ministry facility could help to encourage the truth of a 24/7 relationship with Jesus and call to 24/7 loving service to one another.

    Funding with strings attached will always be a concern. Anytime a vision from the Lord is compromised with activities not of the Lord there will be problems. God's blessing always requires faith that God will meet all the needs.. in his time table, which usually requires a great deal of patience, perseverance, prayer, and smart (hard) work. But the challenges that come with participating in God's vision for something new should never be set aside because of the new problems this thing of God raises. These problems, if approached with faith in God to overcome, are divine opportunities for God to shine in the ways that only God can shine.

    I love the concept behind what has been done with St. Paul Old Ford. There's never a wrong time or wrong place to offer a refreshing cup of cool water from the Lord.

    Thanks for sharing this, Ron. God bless you!

  8. Although I hesitate to undervalue the relationship of church-body to church-building, I think it's time we began understanding that where we meet has never been as sacred as why we meet or what takes place when we meet. Too many churches regard the building as sacred, but we know that our bodies are the temple. I can only imagine God aches when He sees ministry suffer because Pastors focus too much energy/finances/personnel trying to salvage their building, but limit their options to a giving campaign. I hope to see church building continue to fill our cities' landscape for years to come as reminders of God's work throughout history, but the Churches role has never been to concern themselves with buildings, but build the body of Christ.

    That being said, I can absolutely see government money being used to manage church buildings resulting in mandatory use for performing marriage ceremonies for gay couples. We can't expect church staff to seriously be party to helping these couples make their arrangements. One of the only solutions would be to hire a management company to lease the facility on the church's behalf in order to remove direct involvement. Things really start getting sticky when one begins to analyze this topic deeply…

    Love your posts, I read & share them regularly

    God Bless

  9. I like the use of the building, for sure. I'd be concerned about the "strings" attached to the funds more than the funds themselves. But I think I'd rather see a move toward declining churches partnering with thriving churches or church planters before the buildings begin falling down.