Expanding Church! — Part Two

So what do you do when you’re maxed out on space in your present church facility? Yesterday, I shared the story of my friend who pastored a church facing this very issue. Despite his attempts at alleviating overcrowding in the church, his problems with parking only got worse and he was running out of space to seat people. This is a great problem to have but how do we manage it? There are several ideas to consider when formulating a solution. For my friend, the first issue was parking. Despite the relative size of his building (Spacious enough to seat a few hundred people), his parking lot was woefully small. For long standing churches, this is becoming a problem. The reason? Very simply, people are more mobile today then they were 20-30 years ago when many of these buildings were built. In the 1980’s, most people going to church traveled 3-4 to a car so a parking lot with 75 spots could easily accommodate a church of 200-250 or so. Today though, the numbers are quite different. Now, the average is less than 2 people per car so those same 75 spots may only accommodate 100 or so people. Today, you need double the amount of parking you did just 20 years ago and that’s just to maintain a historical average attendance. So adding a second service makes sense since you can clear up some space but at some point, you still run out. That leaves you with one of two options:

  • You buy property around the church and create additional parking.
  • You establish another church in a new location.
  • And really, there is a third option:

  • You can choose to dwindle in attendance and potentially die by doing nothing.

For my friend, option one was not an option. The homeowners nearest his church had no desire to sell their homes and he was already using parking spaces at a local supermarket across the street from his church and he was running a shuttle bus to the supermarket to accommodate those folks. He didn’t want to see numbers dwindle so his only option was to establish a new church at a different site. As I mentioned yesterday, he began by meeting at a local middle school gym and eventually moved into his own place. Now he has two different sites linked by technology so he can preach at either site and be transmitted to the other on Sundays.

You might read this and say: “Makes sense” but does it? Why do other churches try this and fail? I’ve known of good men who tried to emulate my friend’s success only to see it blow up in their faces. What went wrong? What didn’t go wrong! Will we ever try this again? You see, for some churches, one stab at this is enough and when it doesn’t work, they will be less likely to expand again. For my friend, it boiled down to one thing:

His leadership in pre-planning.

Prior to ever making this move, he had thought about it for a few YEARS. Not months, but YEARS. He started with adding another service, the Saturday group I mentioned yesterday, and then began meetings to plan the eventual launch of what is now his biggest congregation. Once my friend let it be known publicly what he was trying to do, it then became a matter of managing the people to see and work towards the vision also. The first things to consider:

The Cost

What would it cost to establish this new place? Such things as site rental, equipment cost, staff, advertising, and printed materials must all be considered.

The Congregation

Are there people who will initially go to establish the new site. In my friend’s case, he merely looked at his demographics and found several families in the immediate area of the middle school gym he was thinking about going to. He began to work with these families to build a consensus about the move. This was key as it gave the new plant some much needed energy. But the biggest area to consider and one that is often overlooked in the mix (believe it or not) is one that I want to talk about tomorrow. That is:

Quality Leadership

Why is this overlooked? Because in today’s mobile age, it’s easy to think we can pipe in sermons and replicate what we’re doing somewhere else. This isn’t practical from a personal standpoint and I think it’s why many church “expansions” fail.

What do you think about what I’ve written here? Am I off base or do you agree? Let’s chat about it here.

~Til tomorrow

Expanding Church! — Part Two

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