I’ve observed over the years churches view their facilities in one of two primary ways: as a house or a temple. I’ve led in churches small and large with facilities ranging from cheap and rented to multi-site worth tens of millions of dollars. In each place, regardless of the size or value of the facility, some viewed the facility as a temple and others as a house. How you view your facility will determine to what extent your facility is a blessing or a challenge for you. Let me explain.
THE TEMPLE VIEW
Some view the church as a temple of sorts. Not THE Temple of God–but not far off. In this way of thinking, the church building needs to be kept clean at all times and available to members at all times. If something gets damaged, it is a big deal–a matter of stewardship they think. Whenever church members use the building simultaneously with a community group, the community group is expected to defer to the member gathering on nearly any issue. Groups that might bring unsavory characters to the church campus (think Narcotics Anonymous) are not approved or are approved, non-approvingly. The facility related questions asked in meetings usually revolve about how to best preserve the facility. The upside is, the facility lasts longer, is readily available for members, and there is little worry about something getting damaged.
THE HOUSE VIEW
Here, the church building is viewed almost like a neighborhood house that kids come play at after school. It is viewed as a place of hospitality…full to the gills and brimming with activity. People who see the church building as a house don’t care whether or not it is available to members. The question they ask is, “How can we use this place for good between the Sundays?” Member groups will often defer to community groups in self-giving sense of graciousness. In this way of thinking, stewardship is less about preservation and more about the generous use of what God’s provided. If something is damaged, it gets fixed–but isn’t a very big deal. “Unsavory” characters are welcome–and often throw cigarettes in the parking lot or graffiti things here and there. The upside is … well…
The question we really need to ask is: Which is more consistent with the Gospel? If so, then that’s how we need to view our facilities. Me, I’m a house guy. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying the temple view is antithetical to the Gospel. I’d just say the only times God puts on a banquet or prepares a place–it’s always with a few to getting them full…not just of the “good folks” either. Facilities facilitate, hence the name. They facilitate ministry. But, if all they facilitate is protectionism, greed, or exclusivity–we’d do better to rent on Sundays somewhere. By all means, take care of your facility. But, take care of it as you use it .
Emily and I made the decision we’d rather have our home open and have to buy a little more food and clean up more messes than to have our kids (and their friends) gone all the time to someone else’s house…or the neighborhood kids think Boo Radley lives in our house. So, we teach the kids to respect our stuff, but we don’t want to respect our stuff more than them. We’re glad to have them. It makes our house feel like a home.
It’s also what makes a Temple feel like a church. Make your church building a “third place” — a place other than home or work people love to hang out in), and you’ll reap many rewards–the greatest of which is God’s blessing.
Tomorrow we’ll talk some more about how to do this.