Whenever I fill out a survey about how money I make, I fit into the first (aka lowest) range listed. So you know the economy is bad if I can afford to buy a house. And I did.
It’s only logical that in the economic crisis where jobs are lost, homes are foreclosing and vacant business equal the number of occupied ones that churches too are in trouble. They aren’t exempt from the collective tightening up. Many can’t afford to pay for the very building they do all of their business in.
If a church hits hard times programs, materials and staff are all disposable. It’s not ideal, but they can be reduced. However churches with their own building can’t cut that cost out – short of moving and trying to sell a very particular piece of property that has little alternative use save religious purposes.
This is what’s happening, as in 2007 eight churches went in foreclosure, but in 2008 that number skyrocketed to just shy of 200, and from what I know that number hasn’t been going down. I think the economic crises has shown us that we got a little ahead of ourselves and a little too confident. In retrospect we see we piled on the amenities that were maybe a little self-aggrandizing.
When I think back upon the churches I’ve been apart of and mentally roam the halls of the campus, it makes me wonder “what do we really need as a church?” Maybe it’s time to wonder aloud Do we need 10,000 square feet?*
I think many buildings are dreams come true for churches. Maybe better stated they are our dreams come true. Having a nice building is comforting, it helps us feel more legitimate, and if we’re really honest the building can help us feel like God approves of whatever we’re doing (good circumstances can seem to equal God’s favor and blessing). We may also find the thing we made for God is actually a little more about us.
I want to be clear I’m not condemning all church buildings. I do think the church has tremendous power when it’s underground and less like a bureaucratic organization, but it’d be silly to say no churches should have a building.
Instead, I think it could be worthwhile to re-evaluate what churches need. What is useful? What do we gain from these spaces? How much are we collectively willing to pay for a meeting place? And maybe hardest of all – why do we really want high-tech, modern spacious buildings for our church?
Do you think some churches went overboard (no need to name names)? What do churches need in terms of a meeting space? Or maybe breaking it down, what does your church need?
*Note I don’t throw out the number as a way to be legalistic, as there is no exact number that if you go over it’s now too big. But let’s be honest 10,000 square feet is a lot of space to sit around and talk about God. And that’s half the size of the church building I attended as a child.