Twenty-five years ago, I served as pastor of a large metropolitan church. At first glance, this church was a magnificent edifice with a large, one-of-a-kind pipe organ; a three-tier sanctuary; and two 30-foot-high motifs, imported from Italy, depicting the three angels of Revelation and the Second Advent. However, in contrast to its beauty and dignity, the church lacked the basics for encouraging members and the community to come and be part of the congregation.
Although it had seating for 1,400, there were only 150
parking spaces. While it had a pastoral staff of five, the building
had only one office. And even though the church could
be seen easily from the road, there was no way for a person
to enter the facility from the other side of the parkway.
If you are currently looking at constructing a new facility,
here are six basic elements that every church needs.
1. External signage. The church sign should identify the church in large, high-contrast lettering that can be read easily by passersby. A number of church signs that I have seen display the church name in colors and hues that are nearly identical to the background. I have been amazed by the number of Seventh-day Adventist churches that do not spell the denominational name correctly, omitting the hyphen between “Seventh” and “day” or capitalizing the “D” in “day.”
2. Entrance to the facility. Adequate lighting is needed for the church’s name, as well as for important entrances. The street number must appear in large letters that can be seen easily from the road. The entrance(s) should be convenient from the street and well-marked. Having a covered entrance for a minimum of two vehicles to unload passengers is a must for weather conditions and for special occasions such as funerals and weddings.
3. Appropriate parking. Parking space should be adequate for the largest event you will ever have at your church. Providing special parking spaces for visitors, including parking spots for physicaly-challenged individuals, pregnant women, and families with small children, is a great way to welcome newcomers. Trees and shrubs are an added bonus, along with a walkway between the rows of parked vehicles.
4. Storage. Inadequate
storage rooms are probably
the biggest nightmare
for deacons and deaconesses.
In many cases, the
church building committee
fails to include a room to
store the chairs and tables
used for fellowship lunches.
This problem extends
to the Sabbath School rooms (particularly in the children’s
divisions), which never seem to have satisfactory cupboards
for all the soft toys, flannel kits, books, and boxes of
handout items. A child-sized toilet in the bathroom near the
classrooms is also a bonus.
A special closet for whiteboards, projectors, TV stands,
and other audio equipment is often overlooked. Deaconesses
would praise any building committee that included a large
walk-in closet with shelves for the items churches use, such
as tablecloths, flower vases, and Communion materials.
When planning each room for your new facility, the thinking
should be “storage, adequate storage, and more storage.”
Even then, you will eventually probably say, “I wish we
had more storage.”
5. Small rooms. Often much of what happens in the local church involves small groups—working committees, social groups, musical ensembles, spiritual circles, etc. Providing rooms of various sizes makes individuals feel more at home and saves on utility costs. Sometimes having a large room that can be divided by two or three moveable walls can meet the needs of many functions and groups. Remember, the majority of church work is conducted in small rooms.
6. Church office space. Every church needs professional office space. This should include a reception area with a secretarial desk and adequate space for computers, printers, and other office equipment. For example, a separate copy room with lots of table space for assembling bulletins is very helpful.
The building should include
two or three pastors’
offices even if your church
currently has only one
pastor. Evangelists and
Bible workers will need
these rooms when conducting
evangelistic series. The pastoral offices should be
designed to face the secretary/receptionist’s office, divided
from it by a double-paned glass wall to keep conversations
The little things—the attention to details—make a church
feel more like a home, which will encourage individuals and
families to return again and again.
This article first appeared in Best Practices, August 2014. It has
been lightly edited for Elder’s Digest. Used by permission.
Gordon Botting, recently retired, was the financial educator and
stewardship director for the Pacific Union Conference.