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The New Ministry Essentials (7.4.2022) — The Church Building


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Chances are that you have been in a lot of talk about, “the church building,” the past couple of years.

  • Every study that I have seen has shown a reduction in in-person attendance, in every phase of this pandemic.

It would be a waste (I’m sorry to say) for all of the talk to be only about people’s personal connection and/or history to the building.

  • So, how about we find a way to make the discussions more substantive and about the future of the ministry?

1) For today, I reflect upon the major renovations that have taken place in buildings like the Sears (Willis) Tower in Chicago to bring people (literally) through their doors (Bloomberg).

  • And, I also introduce some genuine opposing views that others have about doing that.

2) Then, I provide a simple process to go about deciding what to do with, “the church building.”

  • Here’s the quote for today, “To remain attractive investments, there’s a dawning awareness that large, quasi-public buildings need to be all things to all people, and that means hospitality-level consumer amenities.” (Bloomberg)

And, this brings us to this week’s Essential:

  • The ministries of the future will see the church building as something that helps them use their mobile or other electronic device.

Something for every part of life

Today, at the Sears (Willis) Tower, people can do all kinds of things, whereas it once had a single purpose as an office building:

  • Eat at the food hall
  • Get inside an art museum
  • Have a meeting at the conference center
  • Take yoga on the roof garden

They need to do this, more so now than ever, because the “work from home” era has decreased foot traffic.

  • The strategy is clearly to re-purpose the property so that there are more and different kinds of reasons to spend time (inside) there.

At the same time, Nate Storring, co-executive director of the Project for Public Spaces, thinks this might not be such a great idea.

  • “Instead of layering on new quasi-public amenities, Storring suggests focusing more on converting offices into residential units, which could both ease the housing crisis and help keep already-established downtown businesses alive.” (Bloomberg)

It certainly remains to be seen what will “work.”

  • Interestingly enough, that’s the same question for churches, down to the reality that lots of church properties are being converted into residential units.

Let’s think this through a little bit more clearly, then, with the future of the ministry and discipleship in mind.

Even before pre-pandemic was pre-Instagram

Let me just first lay down the bottom line and then get to explaining things:

The building used to be the primary asset in disciple-making and the life of the local church. The point is, that is no longer the case.

In other words, the building itself was a “concrete device,” used for discipleship.

  • In the digital era, the phone is a “creative device,” that is now primary in most people’s lives – it can also be for discipleship.

When it comes to the Sears (Willis) Tower, you can see the same thing happening, per se.

  • In one way or another, the new activities and amenities available are ones that one typically would want to share on social media.

Similarly, in church, you might remember the Polaroid camera, a “creative device,” that was used for discipleship.

  • My dad took and posted a bazillion Polaroid pictures of new families who joined our church.

I believe that it’s the same thing now when it comes to what do with “the church building.” The question is:

What can people do here in this building that could be significant enough for them to want to Instagram it with an inspired and inspiring caption?

Thanks always,

James from PASTORIA


The New Ministry Essentials is a weekly newsletter – subscribe now here.