Ed Bahler argues that bigger isn't always better.
It's a time for resolutions and fresh starts. But it's more than a new year, it's a new day.
There's fresh thinking everywhere. In our economy in the United States, we have shifted from spending to constraint. And constraint is the buzzword for ministry as well. It's no longer about building bigger church buildings and trusting people will come to them. It's about:
- becoming Christ-centered;
- life transformation in his image;
- planting new, organic faith communities.
It's about growth but not about big.
In fact, the brightest students coming out of college are no longer interested in being mentored by the biggest and fastest growing churches. The talented ones are passionate about planting their own fresh expression of church in cinemas, school cafeterias, coffee shops, pubs, warehouses and retail units in shopping malls.
It's about becoming missionaries in our own communities and going to them rather than expecting them to come to us. And that's why church construction now includes refitting old warehouses, shop fronts, and old, outdated or abandoned church facilities.
In our design and building company, God has laid on our hearts a passion to understand and align the following four ministry dynamics:
- evolving culture
- relevant ministry
- empowering leadership
- intentional facilities
What's fuelling this passion? In the USA, church facilities consume 40% of a typical church budget, yet we know very little about how facilities impact ministry or help us connect ministry with the rapidly shifting culture. Furthermore, spending on church facilities has risen from 3.5 billion dollars to over 8 billion dollars in the past 15 years while – in spite of this – church attendance has actually decreased from 49% to 47% of the population.
Alignment of the four ministry dynamics is necessary for changing these statistics because it ensures that a clear message will be provided from the leadership, trust will flow through the congregation, and healthy collaboration will minimise headwind in ministry.
In an effort to further encourage this process of alignment, we are also launching a 'Church Planting Incubator', making our conference and meeting rooms available to budding faith communities. We pray that all the different churches and church projects we're involved in will be places where culture, ministry, leadership and facilities come together.