We are wired for beauty. Our brains recognize it without training, and our bodies respond to it without thinking. It is a principle that applies to ministry as well as creation. How beautiful is your ministry setting?
I am a retired United Methodist Pastor now serving my church as the Facilities Manager. We are a growing church with a ten-year-old building, and we have just begun to wrestle with all of the building related issues that come with an aging facility. Our first step was to decide, “What are the principles which will guide our facility policies?” Although our team realizes that our building is a just tool that we use to do ministry, we want our facility to be the best tool possible for God to use. Our mantra became, “All we want to hear about this building is, ‘Isn’t this a great place to do ministry!’” So we chose these three values—Beauty, Function, and Economy.
Once you have a plan for what ministry your church will do, the next task is to consider how you can attract people to this ministry. I contend that your building is one of the first tools to attract new people. If the facility is not attractive, then you have created a barrier to doing effective ministry. Taking a brutally honest look at your facility and asking how to make it more attractive is an essential step to making the building a great place to do ministry.
Some of this is just basic care. Is the facility clean and well cared for? Roof leaks, incomplete repairs, and worn out carpet all convey a lack of care. This may reflect a struggle with financial support or a passive decision that other things are more important than the building. Would you go to a doctor who practiced in a building in disrepair? Would you shop in a store with peeling paint or leaning shelves? What does your building communicate to your community as they drive by? Do a little research and ask the other pastors or neighbors in your town what your facility communicates about your ministry?
Does everything work? Non-working items communicates a lack of care. This can be a difficult issue since repairs almost always involve financial resources. Thus, your church budget must include sufficient funds to keep things working properly. Long term planning is important to identify resources that will age out over time and need to be replaced. Do the planning, communicate to your leadership the funds needed to keep things working, and begin adding to your budget the financial support needed to do ministry well.
This is the principle we struggle with the most. It’s not just about doing things cheaply. In my experience, cheap often ends up costing more. Cheap may be the least attractive choice you can make and result in visitors misinterpreting your church’s purposes and values. In my congregation, we are constantly researching best practices. Regular maintenance plans, balancing quality and price in purchases, and inviting our members to care for the facility are ways we strive to improve economy.
Admittedly, ministry takes place with very limited resources and often under difficult circumstances. I have the deepest respect for the church leaders who work diligently to attract people without having an attractive facility. But many other churches have become numb and blind to what their facility communicates to those in the community. Take a fresh look outside and inside of your facility and answer the question, “Is this really a great place to do ministry?”