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Posts Tagged ‘church building’

Church without a Building

I’ve had a few years to think about what church life is like without a owning a building.  Our church rents a school gym on Sundays, uses the basement of another church for our training school, and meets in members’ homes during the week for our small groups.  We do have a building fund, and have looked into a few different buildings in the area, but have yet to have anything work out. 

 

I’ve reflected on this more recently, since a good friend’s church is no longer meeting in the building they’ve had for years.  They, like us, will be meeting in a school gym and will need to readjust how they do things.  In time, they’ll probably build a place to meet, but for now are in the same boat we are. 

 

I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing.  In fact, I think there are numerous advantages to doing church without a building, and I’ll list a few here.  Before I do that, I’ll cut off the objectors who will note that all the advantages I mention can be found in churches with buildings.  Yes, I know.  And there are advantages to having a building, too.  I realize that.  But I do think that not having a building encourages and forces a church to be shaped in a way that is less likely to happen with a building.  So, if you read this and think, “but my church has a building and we do ___”, then let me congratulate you on having a great church.  These are simply my observations.

 

Not having a building reinforces the idea that church is not the building, but the people.

 

Yes, I know, there may not be a more common cliché than “the church is not about the building, but the people.”  But, clichés generally become clichés because they are true.  Too many churches feel they’ve “made it” when they have their building up and running, all ready for the person on the street to walk in and find a home.  The nice thing about not having a building is that this temptation to feel like you’ve “made it” isn’t even an option.  You can’t feel like you’ve made it because your church is about the people, who are living, breathing entities who can’t be maintained simply by mopping the floors and keeping the steeple lit up.

 

Not having a building encourages people to open up their homes to spend time with each other.

 

In my years at our church, I’ve become more and more convinced that the greatest strength of our church is the faithgroups (small groups) that meet in homes throughout the week.  Let’s be honest, meeting in a classroom and meeting in someone’s living room have two completely different feelings.  I hope that if/when we do get a building, we never have faithgroups that meet in the church building.  The thought makes me cringe.

 

Not having a building reminds us that the work of God is supposed to take place in every aspect of our daily lives.

 

Praying for each other, worshipping together, speaking the truth of God into our lives- these are things that ought to be a part of our daily lives.  However, there can be a sense that “we do that at church” in many fellowships.  But when you’re options are (1) do these things in homes or (2) wait until next Sunday to do them, hopefully you’ll find yourselves opting for (1). 

 

For those who feel lost in crowds on Sundays, it gives them a place in the church.

 

I’ll be honest, when a church reaches 300+ people, I start to feel lost- and this is coming from someone who is in a leadership position.  I can only imagine how someone who may not be comfortable in a church of any size would feel.  But, when you are meeting in homes throughout the week in smaller groups, they are more likely to find themselves a firm place in the community.  This then bleeds over into Sunday mornings, where they have a core group of friends that they can feel comfortable with, and who can introduce to other members of the community.  Notice something important here: for many, the best introduction to the church is not the corporate meeting, but smaller meetings within the larger community.

 

Not having a building creates a place for people to serve.

 

For a few years, I’ve helped with a team of volunteers who show up to the school building a couple hours ahead of time to set up.  We’ve found ourselves becoming a mini-community, going to breakfast every week after set up.  I’ve made friends that I otherwise may not have made.  When you don’t have a building, it makes it harder for your members to see things that need to be done as “someone else’s job.”  They know that it’s their job to rally together to get things done.

 

I want to make two suggestions that follow up on these things.

 

If you are a church that centers on Sunday and mid-week meetings, you will have a much harder time.

 

You’ll notice that my observations above assume that the church is meeting throughout the week in smaller groups.  But, many churches do not do this; they rely on Sunday and mid-week meetings (often Wednesday) in their sanctuary as their dominant times of ministry.  If your church is one of these churches, but you do not have a building, you will struggle.  (Of course, I would recommend that even if you have a building, you ought to rely more on weekly small group meetings in homes, but that’s another post for another day.) 

 

Don’t let not having a building hinder you.

 

You don’t need a building to advance the kingdom.  Even without a building, you can train and send missionaries, plant other churches, hold missions conferences, and so on.  There isn’t any reason you can’t help the poor and needy in your community.  In fact, not having a building might help because it forces you to go to them, rather than wait for them to come to you.  My point: if you’re ministry relies completely on your building, you may need to rethink how you do ministry. 

 

So there are some of my thoughts.  I may have given the impression that having a building is a disadvantage, but I don’t necessarily feel that way.  There are advantages to having your own building, and maybe someday I’ll get around to posting those thoughts (but don’t count on it).  Also, I’ll repeat what I said above- I realize that all of these things I’ve talked about can happen in churches that have their own building.  In fact, I hope they do happen.  If that is your church, then don’t move.  Ever.

 

Please feel free leave your thoughts on this matter, we’d love to hear what you think.

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