Is your church short on classroom space? Are you “maxed out” in your Sunday Bible study and children’s classes? Sometimes church pastors and building committees become convinced they need more education space and feel the only solution is to begin a building expansion program.
However, many times these churches have a great deal of space they didn’t know they had. Before you rush into a costly, prolonged building expansion, it is always better to look for all available space and for ways of using space efficiently.
The first step is to do a specialized assessment of your facility to help decide how best to maximize the space you already have. An architect experienced in church design or an expert from your denomination will know how to conduct a space assessment. An assessment determines how current space and if problems are due to over capacity or shortages of space. The assessment should offer solutions, including rearranging existing space, and when necessary, expansion of space. Maximizing the use of existing space is much less costly than adding on or building a new space, explore all possible alternatives before rushing into a building program.
Using Space Efficiently
And before you build for the wrong reasons, decide if your church is short of space.
Can your needs be met by changing or rearranging?
- Shifting classes to rooms sized for the actual attendance should give a growing church more room for growth and time to plan for expansion.
- Explore other options or locations such as holding two Bible study hours or have them be home-based groups.
- A church with an adequate worship capacity and inadequate classroom capacity may need to consider two teaching hours with the worship time in between.
- A growing church with enough parking but desperate for both worship and classroom space should consider having two worship services with two simultaneous teaching hours.
Can your needs be met by using your existing facilities?
- Churches should use their gym or fellowship hall and turn the large open rooms into temporary classrooms by dividing the space with Screenflex portable room dividing walls.
Screenflex room dividers come in many heights, lengths, fabrics, and colors. They can be configured in many ways and are quickly closed and moved out-of-the-way for activities requiring the large open room.
Do THIS, Not THAT!
In an interesting post by Shawn Fink in AG Financial’s blog, Does Your Church Building Need More Space? Do THIS, not THAT! he discusses among other things, how to maximize your existing space before expanding. He warns against dismissing your current facilities because you think they are old, outdated, or seem dysfunctional.
It is important to fully use the space you have before starting a new building project. I once worked with a church that seemed to have outgrown their facilities, so they hired an architect. The architect, in turn, designed a $1.5 million sanctuary building. This would have been a wonderful solution if the church needed a sanctuary and if they could afford $1.5 million. Instead, they needed kids ministry and fellowship space, and their budget was $300,000. As we looked through their existing facilities, we determined that the basement level of the church was completely underutilized. With some strategic planning, we can help them renovate that space to meet their current ministry needs, all within their $300,000 budget.
Always Be Planning
Begin planning for expansion well before much of your space reaches 80 percent of capacity. The 80 percent rule of church growth is that if your church reaches 80 percent capacity, instead of growing to 100 percent, a church will, in fact, begin to decline. At 80 percent, lack of space will start to hinder your further growth.
Finally, act on your decision. Shifting classes around or conducting multiple events may seem traumatic to some church members, but if the church is to grow, the leadership must explain the reason for the changes. It’s imperative that everyone is “on board” for the benefit of the entire church.