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April 13, 2007


Mark Howell

This is a fascinating conversation! Love the data points you've put out here, Dave. Wonder what this means for capital campaigns that are about buildings and land?


John Laeger

Outstanding post Dave! Thanks. I am assuming you left out a bunch, but as I read it I just kept thinking of the churches who are meeting in movie theaters and/or keeping their facilities small on purpose to strategically multiply in other areas and communities with other smaller facilities like you are describing. The challenges are great and exciting!

Desiree Guzman


I know that at CCC we've asked attenders several times to consider moving from the Yellowbox location to the Downtown (high school) location in order to make room for new comers, and it's always difficult to convince people to make that move -- at least for an extended time period. Since the service they would experience is essentially the same at both places, it seems fair to assume that the differences in the two buildings play a part in people's decision of where to attend. I'm glad that the Yellowbox is attractive and draws in newcomers, but I'm sad that so many long time attenders have not been willing to give up their place at that campus to make room for others. I wonder what you think about building design ideas in relation to the multi-site model. How does creating a sort of "premiere" location effect the church as a whole. Is it really possible to use a flashy building to draw people in, and yet at the same time try to teach them to not get too attached to that building? Because it hasn't seemed to work for us very well. Do you think there is any danger in the message a flashy building sends to a community about what a church's priorities are? How could that building effect a relationship we might try to build with a campus or school in an under resourced community? I'd love to hear some other people's thoughts on this.

I always find myself wrestling with the tension between wanting to create the kind of environment that makes people want to come back again and hear more about Jesus and thus have their lives changed, and the fact the Jesus didn't do ministry this way. There was already a big fancy temple in Jerusalem, but that wasn't where Jesus spent his time. And he never commanded his followers to build a building. And I struggle with how Jesus feels about us building ourselves a nice place to hang out when people all around us are hungry and homeless. On the other hand, the Yellowbox has been a place where hundreds of people have found their way back to God, and through which thousands probably have. So how does Jesus think about all this stuff? Any insights?

Matt Payne

We are a six month old church and we meet in a 200 seat theater in a Community College Arts building. Last Sunday someone asked me if we would build a theater when we were ready to build. I said, "I think we have to." Our DNA is the theater. Our Sunday Morning Live! family service requires a theater. The facility definitely has helped shape who we are as a church.

Over the next 5-10 years the college wants to build on its campus a 20 million dollar Fine Arts facility with a 600 seat theater. They can't do it alone so they are looking at partnering together with different organizations. I asked if they would consider a long term lease with a church for Sunday morning use and they are willing to talk. Since we are in Oregon this is HUGE!! There are lots of hurdles and it will take several years but who knows what God can do?


Form follows function.

Chris Surratt

What if we build our facilities for the community to use as much as we do? Wouldn't that revolutionize how our communities look at us?

Troy Gramling

Thanks Dave for some great insight and for your spiritual gift of interpertation....


Amen to Chris Surratt's comment. Personally, I am grieved to be spending so much money on a building that is only used by "the church" and even then only used less than ten percent of the week.


I pastored in a church that used its facility primarily for the community. We were an "old First" downtown church. Our congregation at Sunday worship was about 150. Our community groups totalled well into the 1000s.

It was both good and bad. On one hand a lot of good was done in the community. On the other hand, I don't think in three years (I was a short-term associate pastor) I ever saw anyone come to Christ through the community using the facility.

The connection has to be much more explicit than just 'come use our building and we'll build good will'. That just doesn't translate.

I'm in another big city (bangkok, Thailand) and we struggle with space. We rent. Some of our folks would like to build (for all the wrong "institutional" reasons). But renting has it's own problems. Especially when you are dealing with significant differences in cultural expectations. Renting from Thai people, trying to present a space for foreigners living in Thailand.

I'd love to hear how all the "renter" churches do children's ministry and create an amazing environment each week only to tear down and rebuild next week.


Will we need more church facilities in the future or will our missions lead more of us out into the communities, house churches and internet churches? Will we continue to hold our value upon the once a week church service? How we DO church as a whole may be changing? Concepts such as organic, incarnational and missional are "leading tones" toward restructuring church.

brad andrews

We have seen an increase in spending on church facilities in the last 15 years without a corresponding impact. In 1992 the church spent $3.5 billion on facilities and last year the church spent $9.5 billion while the average number of people in church has decreased!

not to throw water on the fire of creativity, but doesn't this seem to be the problem? bigger, flashier churches aren't working...they send the wrong 'theological' message.

imho, church facilities of the future will be places for primarily weekend gatherings, seating 500-1000 tops, low-key, simple, artistically vibrant, very few classrooms. no coffee houses, bookstores, gyms, etc. as to emphasize that 'church' primarily happens during the week.

i would also add that as these churches grow, you plant other churches or go multi-site. you don't build bigger. bigger is not better.

Ed Bahler


It was really great to share the journey this week in ATL. As always your optimism is a joy to be around. I hope you felt my "college guy" comment in ATL was a compliment to the "anything is doable" spirit that radiates from you.

Future facilities?......I agree with the earlier post that the organic/incarnational church efforts may be leading tones. However, it seems as our world expands with the digital age information access there is a growing need for a place of connection and context. That place could be the home....work...or coffee shop. However, my experience with college kids suggests there is still a significant need for a grounded place in their lives that creates a sense of permanence and offers context by which to navigate this swirling environment.

As I mentione my four mid-twenty son-in-laws and son want to get together every month (drive an hour to do it) for 4-5 hours to connect and make sense of their hyper paced life. They need context an older person can provide as their world grows exponentially. This is a fantastic opportunity for the church.....an opportuity to create context that benefits significantly from a sense of groundedness a facility can provide.

So I think it's a both/and opportunity. A grounded place to gain context, encouragement, training and opportunity to go out and create incarnational....organic....Christ connections daily. That grounded place needs to facilitate three experiences:
1) Authentic Biblical teaching that helps do life successfully.
2) A place of belonging in a way that is natural for each person and affirms their spirit....kind of like we experienced this week in ATL.
3) Equipping and encouragement for daily ministry....to create those incarnational Jesus moments.

Jeff Pessina

The outpouring of response here, both in number and length, must suggest that people have had some serious thinking going on when it comes to the Church and its' buildings. This is surely a hot topic. And with the proposal of some that the church is now in the beginning stages of a mass movement away from buildings and into small groups/homes, I suppose it will get even hotter.

It has been my opinion for many years that the Church has needed to wake up and realize that it's focus and preoccupation with facilities was entirely out of sync with the example and emphasis of Jesus. Does it have any impact on peope's minds? Does it affect the way we think and behave? Does it create barriers, or effect the perception of people to the Church? The answer to all of that is obviously, yes.

Surely the simplicity of life, and the point in history in which Christ chose to come, has significance. Of course, we cannot build a solid case that Jesus was dead set against the use of facilities. He often met and ministered at the temple. But somehow it must strike us (interest us) again that without any equipment, material, media, props, PA, or limo, he changed History and the course of the nations.

I have often spoke from the text in Matt 24;1-3 where the disciples tried to turn Jesus' attention to the buildings; His response was less then inspiring to the building committee... "is his what you see? I tell you, not one stone will remain standing on top of another" (paraphrased). The point? Jesus was not preoccupied with man made buildings; we often are... to the point where the church of North America has amassed billions of dollars worth of real estate, most of which is used only a couple times a week. (Unlike the Yellow Box, which should have been painted like a bee-hive! Great use of space guys.)

Though this is a huge subject with no simplistic solution (as it may appear I am suggesting), and so many angles to be considered, There's little doubt in my mind that the nearly unrestrained focus and spending on facilities has been to the detriment of a better focus... on people themselves, and the ultimate mission of the church; to take the message, the love, and the Spirit of Jesus to the nations... to help people find their way back to God.

Jeff Boriss

We've been tossing around the idea of a "ministry center" minus the cheesy name. Basically a central office structure with a small auditorium (maybe 250-400 seats) In this building there are the central offices, studios, classrooms, cafe' production areas and MASSIVE parking for the trailers. The idea would be to continue using rental spaces for the weekends but still have a place for recovery classes, mid-sized gatherings, etc. There are some ups and downs with this idea, there would be less cost but there are some negatives as well. It is possible to have an awesomely attractive portable space for adults and kids, we've had pretty good success at it and would honestly hate to loose the "mission" feel of being portable. All of what you'll see we cart in...there's nothing we use that's in the auditorium (other than the seats...i guess;)

click here for photos of our kids section...i think you'll like it...

here for our adult worship area...

I would love any thoughts about the centralized "center" ideas, we're not sold on it yet...simply exploring all possibilities. Thanks!


I've seen CCC grow so much in the past 71/2 years attending and contributing. It's amazing how a trailer turned into a Children's Art Center. And still we have yet to reach its full potential.

In my search now for a church that I can learn to be a pastor as well as serve the community I found a church in AZ. The New Life Community Church in Peoria, AZ has a wonderful facility and I found that their dedication to community is awesome. Check out their site and see what can be done in God's name for the communtiy:


I have to admit I was quite impressed by the way the facility is so functional. But I beg to ask, is it only the faciltiy? I would say not because it's the community that makes the facility. We see that daily even as I grew up, the community opening their homes to others for groups or back yards for events or even that summertime block party. God's community, the church's facility.


I think Dominic is on to something. What does it take for "Community to happen"? In another response, it was noted that people do not readily move from one CCC campus to another, and it was noted that the service is basically the same, but the building is different. If "The Community" is those we interact with face to face, sharing the details of "life as a Christ follower" with, then when someone connects with a Community, those connections are not always interchangeable. So, what facilites promote "community", and what facilites will connect the Community, which happens to meet in a building, with a broader community?

Dan Metcalf


The church of the future...

Simply put; A place where the entire community DESIRES to go.

People desire to go to Starbucks. People desire to go to Barnes and Noble. Why? Because people are drawn to the atmosphere of something that's good for conversation and community, that provides an atmosphere of fun (and maybe a bit of excitement). It's the basic rules of what any true business looks for a product or even a building. How can we innovate and really make "XYZ" appeal to the most people without being unrealistic.

The Yellow Box has a good beginning grasp on what that is. Having AA and NA groups, allowing some of the boyscout troups to use the gymnatorium, open gym days, the cyber cafe, having the rooms on the lower level available to those who need them, etc.

I can see a point in the future if Churches would continue to pay attention, AND ACT, with a complete trust in God on what the trends of the culture and community around them are; that they would recognize a building that is multi-purpose (for what ever purposes the community around them needs the most) would be one of the best ways to serve the people around them... even if it's just their building!

CCC (as you know) had an example this week about creating a buzz in the community about doing good. That's great! That's what the building itself needs to be. Something atypical, that serves a useful purpose to everyone... The churches needs AND the communities need as well.

It would be such an amazing thing to see a movement of churches across the country that would think a little outside the box and not just focus on their congregation as a whole and "how many more people can we sit in this auditorium" or "how many more meeting rooms can we put in to handle OUR small groups", but rather, sacrificing SOME of those things and thinking... How can this building be a tool of God's for the community we're in. Not just 'XYZ's Church's activities'... but the community that God calls us to reach and serve with passion!

BHAG for Church Buildings of the Future:
A church would be a more desirable place to go to than a Starbuck's that's nearby. (THAT's thinkin' big :-))

Bill Terrill

“A Day at the Beach”

“We have seen an increase in spending on church facilities in the last 15 years without a corresponding impact. In 1992 the church spent $3.5 billion on facilities and last year the church spent $9.5 billion while the average number of people in church has decreased!”

Property/construction costs in many urban areas have accelerated beyond this ratio! Is this simply a reality of the cost of building in 1992 vs. 2006?

“We need church facilities that thrill the community…not fight against the community! We need to build facilities that people really want in thier neighborhood and that city of officials will embrace because they are obviously good for the community. “

The past ten new churches and/or significant church expansion projects in our area show great progress in design/architecture. The church-building community is changing for the better -- producing building designs that just about any community would be proud to have anchored in their subdivisions.

“There is an abundance of wealth creation. There is money to do whatever you want!:”

Wealth works hand-in-hand with accountability, responsibility, and expectation. If you expect a successful building campaign, you’ll need a perfect plan and near-perfect execution. You will be scrutinized and tested at each step from plan to move-in through your 10-year maintenance cycle!

“We have a whole bank of introverts that the church has not honored by forcing them into spaces that manipulate how they connect with people.”

Absolutely agreed! Bull-pens, cubicles, small offices, windowless conference rooms – sounds a bit like Lucent Technologies, General Motors, Office Depot, Navistar, Boeing, Tribune Company… need I write more?

“We need facilities that draw the creative class (leaders / artists)…”

See my notes above.

“We shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us…”

So, our buildings need to be Christ-centric, graceful, flexible, change-oriented, expandable, efficient, people-friendly (adults and kids), connected, energetic, and beautiful -- which leads me to my favorite celebration and worship venue – the beach! Spend a day there and you’ll see what I mean!

Bill Carroll

What Bill Terrill said about the increase in building cost makes a lot of sense.

Whoever made up that one about artists and the "Leading tones" or "unwritten score" was obviously not an artist. That is ignorant!

Bill C

Bill Carroll

What Bill Terrill said about the increase in building cost makes a lot of sense.

Whoever made up that one about artists and the "Leading tones" or "unwritten score" was obviously not an artist. That is a stupid metaphor. (Oh God, please don't let have been Dave's contribution!)

Bill C

Bill Carroll

Ok. That is not good. I tried to tone down my choice of words the second time, but somehow it posted both entries. That will teach me!


This weekend at CCC confirmed what I stated in my last comment. Each one of our campuses (campii?) had different experiences, from adjusting to new praise chorus to a choir that rocked, from a 3 piece band to a full horn section, from video to live pastor we brought the word of God to them in a way they, that community was comfortable with.

So in regards to the question at hand "What Will Church Facilities Look Like In The Future?" I feel it should reflect the community in which it serves. Giving them "grace" in everything we do. Adding a coffee shop, library, gym, meeting places, cyber cafe, a place to worship, or a quite room for us to reflect is all good and does serve a purpose but if the community doesn't use it then all it will be is an empty room.

I guess that reflects the soul of a Christ follower, if it is not used then it's just an empty soul.

Jeff Benson

"We have a whole bank of introverts that the church has not honored by forcing them into spaces that manipulate how they connect with people."

I can relate to that statement.

I'm not sure what the right solution is. But I know that as much as I need fellowship, the crowded atmosphere on a Sunday morning at church gives me a twinge of dread . . . every time.

Some of the above comments remind me of Christopher Alexander's books on architecture - shaping space to influence what the humans who spend time there will tend to do. Certain spaces make us come alive, and other spaces make us not want to return to them. I like that we're thinking about "honoring" different personality types with the space that we create, and not just talking about how many people we can pack in to an auditorium. Great post!

Ed Bahler

Avoiding that "Twinge of Dread"

Thanks Jeff for your insights regarding your "twinge of dread" on Sunday morning.

In Atlanta last week Joe Myers, author of two books.... "Search To Belong" and a new release this spring "Organic Community" shared some excellent insight into this issue of how people connect and find belonging. He suggests we have four kinds relationships that are vital to our belonging. We have PUBLIC RELATIONSHIPS (like high fives with strangers at the Bulls game or worship service at church), SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS (like hanging out at the sports bar with a large group watching the game or a large group community project at church), PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS(like hanging out at home with a few friends watching the game or a small group at church), and INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS (we have just a few of these relationships say with our spouse or a few prayer/accountability partners).

Joe, and many of us church designers now believe the church needs to create spaces to facilitate all four of these relationships types and allow peole to congregate on Sundays and throughout the week where they feel most comfortable. Why not make people feel comfortable to engage at their pace and in a way most comfortable to them.

For example, maybe watching the service with a few friends on the big screen in the commons area is most comfortable for now....make them feel safe and welcome to experience church and the message in that way. If this is most comfortable could it also be the most powerful worship experience for them, and in turn free the spirit to work most effectively, even though they are not in the auditorium with the congregation.....dealing with that "twinge of dread" you spoke of?

What do you think?


A cool building with a cool service and a cool pastor can help a "church" grow. Sometimes people are won to the cool things and miss the personal relationship with Jesus. If people are focused on coming to a building for "church" they have missed Jesus.

I guess that is the catch 22 of a building (or can be). Personally, I think one of the great struggles for the modern day church is the tension betweeen buildings and the church living as a family.

There are no wrong or easy answers.

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