A record number of new churches are launching across North America. Most will initially choose to meet in a rented facility—often a school, movie theater or community center. While church is never only about the building, renting a space that works with your vision for the new church or campus is very important.

You want your space to be recognizable, navigable, relevant and affordable. You know that environment and attendee experience matters, and you want the site to capture your church’s DNA and personality.

Having helped thousands of churches launch strong and thrive in rented spaces over the past twenty years, our company has determined five “must-haves” when it comes to selecting your portable site.

Strategy #1: A Welcoming Atmosphere

We know the connections new visitors make with existing members is ultimately what will help them grow into fruitful members of your church community. Surveys show that most visitors make up their mind to return within their first seven minutes on your campus. As such, the tone of your environment and volunteers is critical. Many venues (a school with cinderblock walls, for example) might not provide a welcoming atmosphere on their own. Fortunately, it’s easy to turn this type of venue into the welcoming environment you want using extra treatments and equipment.

Even so, the one thing money can’t buy is hospitality—that requires warm, welcoming people out front where visitors arrive. Additionally, setting up a café in the venue’s lobby or courtyard makes people feel at home by offering them something special. And, while it’s critical to use signage to ensure all areas are easy to find, it’s equally important to strategically position people to answers visitors’ questions.

Strategy #2: A Great A/V Experience

Thinking about all the technology needed to run a church service on Sunday morning can be daunting—especially in the context of a rented venue. So, let’s break it down into more manageable pieces. You will need a custom combination of:

  • Speakers with the right coverage patterns and dispersion.
  • Projectors sized right, based on screen size and lighting control.
  • Correct-size screens viewable from anywhere in the room.
  • Wireless microphones that won’t encounter drop-outs due to competing frequencies in your region.
  • Wires to connect everything.

You must also be able to easily transport and set up all this technology each week.

Thankfully, there are companies, experts and systems available to turn this complex project into a simply elegant worship environment that volunteers can set up and use—regardless of the venue. Explore these options.

Strategy #3: A Safe, Fun Children’s Area

Church leaders know better than anyone the importance of a safe, secure (and fun!) children’s area. Parents want to know their little ones are in good hands. In a portable church environment, achieving this type of space requires a little extra effort.

If your church meets in a movie theater, the kids’ space could be in the lobby, the hallway or even a party room. If your church meets in a school, the gymnasium can be divided up for different age groups (just make sure it’s air-conditioned!) Dingy walls or inappropriate posters can be covered up using “scuba walls”—floor-to-ceiling coverings made from Scuba material—or something similar. Simple tools like these can completely transform a space into a clean, bright, fun environment.

Strategy #4: Parking and Easy Access

If your church is meeting in a school or movie theater, you’ll likely have a convenient parking lot. But, what if it isn’t big enough?

On average, you’ll want to allow for 1.7 adults per car. What is your visitor estimate? Will you have enough onsite parking? If not, consider renting parking spaces. Ask a nearby building or business if your church can use its parking accommodations on Sunday mornings. If your church is meeting in the city, consider renting out space in a parking garage, or at least negotiating for a discounted rate for your visitors.

Strategy #5: Clear Signage

Direct, informative signs should not only get people where they need to be, but create a great first impression. In rented facilities, this can be a challenge; often, you’re competing with permanent signage. So, your church needs to ensure its signs stand out.

To this end, a basic rule of thumb is to always have a sign in view. When a visitor is standing at one of your signs, there should be at least one other sign in view. It will be a more enjoyable experience if the visitor is quickly and easily able to find exactly where he or she needs to go.

Finding a site where you can launch your portable church is challenging—and involved. Keeping these five tenets in mind will aid your selection process and go a long way toward launching strong.