Building healthy churches is certainly not the same thing as constructing buildings. Yet we all intuitively know that buildings and their interiors can and do contribute to the growth of many healthy churches if used wisely.

I’ve observed this practical truth many times over the past thirty years as my company has worked with tens of thousands of churches in the refurbishing, renovation and new construction of church facilities. I’ve also experienced the practical impact of good and bad facility decisions while witnessing a church plant, which began in our home, outgrew the space. This led us to rent a public school facility and then a Christian teen center; later we purchased and renovated a private school and finally built our own campus from scratch, all over a thirteen-year period.

So what do your facilities say about your church? And what can your church do to maximize the positive impact of your facility on your ministry and outreach?

Here are some perspectives and practices common to healthy growing churches we’ve observed over thirty years:

Your facility is simply one tool in your ministry toolbox … Not the tool.

When the building, finance, or decorating committee becomes more important than equipping the Body, missions and ministry, it is time to rethink the relationship between your ministry and facility.

Clean and well-maintained facilities are a first impression must.

While great preaching, wonderful music and warm fellowship are important elements of a meaningful first visit, how your facility is maintained is far more important than many realize. Outdated decorations can suggest a church living in the past. Broken or dirty childcare areas imply that you are not taking appropriate measures for the children’s safety. These problems can leave a bad first impression and hinder a visitor from returning.

Smarter use is better and less expensive than larger under-utilized.

Don’t be afraid to leverage your space into multi-purpose applications. Dual-function furniture, room dividers/living walls, and technology can make small spaces attractive, highly functional and economical. Put your rooms to good use by investing in a few extras so your members can repurpose the space as needs arise.

Pre-plan and strategize to free up facility dollars for ministry.

With thoughtful pre-planning and well-coordinated volunteers, existing space can be used for multiple functions; nurseries can quickly become classrooms, worship areas can convert into banquet areas, and so on. Know what your spaces are going to be used for and how that will look during the week. There is no reason to build rooms for two classes when they meet on separate days.

Invest in quality furnishings that are flexible and can grow with you.

Time and again we’ve seen churches buy “cheap” seating, furnishings and other equipment thinking they were saving money. In reality it’s like building on sand. Invest in quality items with well thought out applications and long life that can grow with you. If you buy “cheap” you will be replacing it much sooner and costing the church money in the long run. Research, plan, and ask around. These are things that will save you from replacement costs in the future.

Create a security plan for your entire facility.

Unfortunately, today more than just your nursery needs a security plan. Engage a security professional to help assess points of entry and exit to various areas of your facility and how security risks can be minimized. Limit access to administrative and children’s areas during services and periods of low facility population.

Facilities can be a blessing and important tool to your ministry or a drag and point of division. With prayer, a thoughtful approach and observing the best facilities practices of healthy and growing churches, you can help assure your facility will be a sound platform for your ministry efforts.