Locked Out–Rethinking Church Use of Space

Wow, times are tough!

The virus is resurging. Churches are closing. Pastors are quitting. And many congregations find themselves locked out of the place they used to rent.

An Acts 8 Crisis

Maybe we shouldn’t look at these as tough times, but more like normal. Jesus never told us it would be easy—in fact, he promised persecution. We certainly aren’t being persecuted. Instead, this could be an Acts 8 moment, minus the persecution. Maybe God is trying to move us off stasis. We might be as surprised as the folks in Jerusalem when they discovered gentiles worshipping in Antioch or those other people in Caesarea.

We all know it’s time to make disciples and multiply churches like we haven’t done for decades. In fact, comparing stats shows that 94 percent of Americans self-identified as Christian in 1950 compared to just 68 percent today. And those people checking “None” for religious preference in 1950 comprised just five percent of the population. Today that figure is 20 percent. During those seven decades, Protestants in America have shrunken from 66 percent of the pie to just 37 percent today. We’ve lost nearly half the ground we once held.

Land use is a problem. Cities resent the fact that churches pay no property tax. Community spaces that were open to us pre-pandemic increasingly refuse outside renters due to the virus. It’s time for creativity if we expect to turn the tide of shrinkage into a growing movement.

Some Workable Ideas

A friend in Tokyo planted a church in a park, in August. There was a typhoon that day. The new congregation huddled under umbrellas as they did 18 months later in a snowstorm. That was the final meeting in the park, just before they moved the church into a bar. Summer, winter, rain, heat and cold that congregation met in a park. A church in Kobe, Japan met in a labor union hall after being kicked out of a school over a conflict between Christianity and a Buddhist administrator. They later rented a small office space holding several meetings on a Sunday.

One church meets in coffee shops, after hours. The owners can’t be too afraid of the virus as they are open for business during the daytime. Others meet in waiting rooms at automotive garages or even in a doctor’s office. Space is there if you’re willing to think outside the norm.

If you own, or otherwise control, church space you should think about renting to churches that have none. One friend leads a congregation that uses its campus three times each Sunday—they also host four other churches representing different doctrinal persuasions and nationalities. If you need a place to meet, and haven’t yet, go knock on doors at different churches in your vicinity.

Smaller Could Be Better

Finally, think about this. Smaller is often more intimate and possibly better. You could always rent, or lease, commercial or industrial space that might appear too small for your church. Just hold “Sunday services” several times during a week. A church I pastored repeated its service seven times each weekend. Preaching teams, simplified worship with different leaders in each meeting and a cup of coffee could make the unworkable do just fine.

So, what do you know that can help the rest of us? Who is doing something creative or clever that another person might be able to learn from? Please take three minutes to jot your advice in the comments box. Long ago it became apparent that the people reading this blog tend to be disruptive, innovative thinkers. We’d all love your thoughts and ideas!

Share:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn

4 thoughts on “Locked Out–Rethinking Church Use of Space”

  1. “Church in the box” is a pandemic in most of America. Same thing, same way while expecting a different result or do we even expect change. We hold to forms of church gatherings hiding in our buildings and we in the buildings are the problem not just church leadership. We resist change (guiding of the Holy Spirit) too often so that even a leader that may have a vision different from traditional church may be discouraged by being tied to a building or traditional church service forms.
    Like in the 60’s and 70’s we need ground up break the mold church leaders.
    New believers are too often indoctrinated into the must attend on Sunday plus other weekday(s) to be part of a ministry team in churches because church structure has become rigid.
    Now that being said many people are fine with this structure so it may be serving a purpose or maybe it is perpetuating a problem.
    I Love the Sunday church on other days format especially in areas where thousands of people work Sunday. At least today with recorded sermons if you miss some services you can watch them online.
    Renting space to other fellowships is good especially where we reach people who speak other languages.
    A couple of my pastors from the 70’s were often supportive of new ideas in ministry I do not see that today very often.
    Church idea-
    start a fellowship where Sunday morning is not part of the format maybe it’s all evenings and early mornings or even midday give people such as first responders, medical, people who work in resorts and service industry non 8-5 jobs options to be part of a fellowship. Same service a couple times a week and/or a couple different studies a couple times a week. we may be missing opportunities in resort areas that run 7 days a week with weekends being busiest and the most people working.
    So that’s my .02 for now I’ll be at “Church in the box” except when I am working weekends.

    1. Thanks Mike,

      I love two things you wrote:

      “…many people are fine with this structure so it may be serving a purpose or maybe it is perpetuating a problem.”

      “Church idea-start a fellowship where Sunday morning is not part of the format maybe it’s all evenings and early mornings or even midday give people such as first responders, medical, people who work in resorts and service industry non 8-5 jobs options to be part of a fellowship. Same service a couple times a week and/or a couple different studies a couple times a week. we may be missing opportunities in resort areas that run 7 days a week with weekends being busiest and the most people working.”

      Thanks for the insights!!!

  2. When I started my church we rented at a hotel, met in the park and then met at an existing church on Saturday nights. We drew a crowd in Orange County a block from Knotts Berry Farm by marketing with posters on telephone poles. “Church for Singles.” Demographics showed that 50 percent of the area was single.

    I have thought about trying to share a building with a business called We Buy Any Car .com. All they have is a desk and a filing cabinet and they are only there during the day. And not on Sundays.
    It’s big enough.
    When I started my church it was a nightmare. I tried EVERY empty space. One example: a bank that had been empty for years, producing no income. The owner angrily yelled, I’m not renting to a expletive church.
    The mall had a lot of empty space. I told them they didn’t need to do any remodeling, we would allow them to continue marketing the space and could kick us out with 30 days notice. They still said no.
    However, some malls are open to it now. We had a church in our local mall until they bought a building.
    Even our own denomination’s local church pastor angrily said no to us about using the building on off hours. I think he was an exception. Most of our pastors would have helped.

Leave a Reply to Ralph Moore Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter



No spam, only notifications of  new blogs, podcasts, etc.