Every church comes up against the inevitable when they grow or see ministries thriving, facility/space limits. In fact, I've never met a church who was totally content and happy with their facility and had all the space they needed and then some! One of the challenges any ministry leader will have to address is how to maneuver around facility limits in an efficient and fruitful way.
1. Repurpose - Do you have old classrooms that aren't being used on the weekend? What about offices for part-time staff? Those can become new ministry spaces. If you could knock out some walls, put up dividers, or move pieces, you could repurpose an entire space. One thing we did recently was take what had been an unused Adult Sunday School classroom and repurpose it for large group children's ministry. When that happened an entire hallway became open for moving children's ministry, freeing up additional classroom space for growing Adult classes.
2. Consolidate - Sometime walk through your ministry area and take note of every single space (room, hall, etc.) and write down how it gets used, by how many people, and what day/time. You might be surprised to see that a lot of your ministry space is used by very few people on very few times. Could you consolidate so that the same space is getting used more, freeing up more rooms for other purposes? If your church struggles to find ways to use its space during the week, this could help you identify ways to expand your square footage without building.
3. Storage Rearrangement - Sometimes what happens in churches is that when storage needs arise the default is to put it in an unused or underused room. But this stifles the ability to use space for ministry, especially if it's been defaulted to storage for a while. If your church has an attic space, could you have plywood floors or shelves put in to maximize storage? Do you have outbuildings that could be cleared and used for long-term storage? Avoid using off-site storage, unless you're diligent about maintaining and using what's in there, it can often become your donation to a storage company to hold trash.
4. Multipurpose - Churches have two cycles with their facility, week and weekend. Just because something is used for one purpose on the weekend doesn't mean it can't be used for a different purpose during the week. So for example, our fellowship area between services during the week (which had been the "choir room" that only got used for an hour a week) is used as a staging area for a weekday Bible study, and a gathering place for a preschool group. The tables and chairs are moved each time, but the space gets multiple uses. Offices that are rarely used over the weekend provide a space for a beginning small group.
5. Black Bags - Most churches' biggest problem with facility and space is that they have way too much stuff they haven't gotten rid of. Sometimes the best thing you can do with a cluttered space that can't be used is get trash bags and make them disappear. You won't miss it, and you'll never use it again, so why hang on to it? If you feel bad about throwing things away, contact an underserved ministry or church in your area. Often churches hang onto things because they may need it down the road, but as good stewards we must use the resources we have effectively, and we must wisely store and maintain what's necessary to avoid clutter.
One of the overarching themes for how the church operates from 1 Corinthians is for things to be done orderly (1 Corinthians 14:40). How we arrange our facility space and use the physical resources God has given to us is important to ensure we're doing the most to have the most impact.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.