Building a Church

I usually focus my writing on applying the good news of Jesus to regular aspects of life (parenting, marriage, leadership, work, etc.). But today, I’d like to give an update on an exciting new church building project. At our congregational business meeting last May, the Elder Board announced that we would be starting to gather information and explore options for moving to a more permanent building facility—and people cheered! (Obviously, there had been a felt need for some time.) But at that time we had no definite plans and no real timeline. Our first priority last year was on helping to launch Village Community Church. But we said this was the direction we believed God was leading us in the future and we asked for prayer.

Where are we in the process?

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Pro 15:22). We consulted many sources looking for wisdom and guidelines that other churches have followed in buying facilities and relocating. So far we’ve…

  • Continued to pray to ask God for guidance and wisdom
  • Read books on church finance and buildings
  • Spoken to other pastors of similar-sized churches who have recently moved/remodeled
  • Interviewed a pastor who has overseen four major capital campaigns and church building projects in his career (this was an incredible gift!)
  • And we spoke with realtors, bankers, and pretty much anyone else who was willing to talk with us about the project

Trust me when I say that we are not the first church to look for a building! This is completely normal in the life of a church. But this is no small deal, and we do not want to leap before we look.

So after this “learning” phase, we are now assembling a few options for the congregation to consider in the coming months. We believe these options will allow us to continue and expand our mission of sharing good news for years to come. And we really do believe that by God’s grace, we will see the good news of Jesus Christ transform the people of the city in every way!! This vision always makes my heart beat faster. The main options are…

  • Option 1: Buy land and build a new facility (or several phases over time)
  • Option 2: Buy an existing property (commercial, industrial, or existing church facility) and remodel it to fit our needs

In a perfect world, Option 1 would be ideal as we could build exactly what we want (obviously within financial reason). However, it’s far more expensive than Option 2, and most of the reasonably priced available land in Appleton is outside of Appleton. For these reasons (and probably others), Option 2 is much more common for churches of our size and life-stage. The elder board is working out details on several options and will communicate them in time. We will need your feedback, ideas, support, and prayers along the way. To be continued!

Does a Church Need a Building?

The first point to clarify is that the building is not the church. It’s common to say, “We’re going to church.” as if the destination was the church, but the people are the church. If the YMCA somehow disappeared overnight, Appleton Gospel would still be a church. No different than if something happened to my house, my family would still be a family. But the people of the church are expected to continue to meet together for worship, community, ministry, and mission (Ac 2:42-47; Heb 10:25). A church only needs a building to facilitate the mission of the church. A church building a tool for mission. A big, expensive tool, but a tool nonetheless.

When we started as a church plant about 7 years ago, all we needed was a conference room for worship and 1-2 classrooms for children’s ministry at the YMCA. I worked out of my house or in coffee shops (which is when I became a total coffee snob). Since then, we moved twice within the YMCA to facilities that better fit our needs. Now we use the McGuire Gym for worship, 4 classrooms for children’s ministry, and the cafe, kitchen, and family fun center for social events. We also use the hallways, restrooms, onsite storage, and parking areas every week at the YMCA (things we don’t normally think about). This doesn’t include the space used in people’s homes, other facilities rented for events, or the office space we rent for church admin. For the first 6 years, we were absolutely blessed by the facilities of the YMCA. They have been a great partner of ours. But for the past year or so, we’ve felt the limitations of being a mobile church. There’s only so much you can do when you setup and tear down everything every week. It takes a lot of bandwidth that could be put towards more fruitful things.

So does a church need a building? The answer is no because a building doesn’t define a church and isn’t the mission of a church. But if a church is healthy and doing the evangelistic work of sharing good news, making disciples, and loving their neighbors, then the church will likely grow. And when that happens, the needs for facility space grow as well.

So let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. Let’s keep focused on his mission to make disciples. Let’s keep loving and serving one another and our neighbors and grow in our capacity to do that. And let’s just see what God might do in building a church as we faithfully follow him!