“Road appeal matters. Aesthetics matter.” That is the conclusion of church consultant, Tim Cool, after assisting more than 350 churches throughout the United States with facility needs. Far more than most of us realize or are willing to admit, the design and condition of our facility are critical in telling the story of our ministry. What story does our church campus tell our community? What message does a drive by our property convey? Ninety-nine percent of the people who drive by know nothing about the Christian and Missionary Alliance or us. Sixty or seventy percent of them have little or no connection with a church of any kind. What goes through their minds when they see our facility? Do they even “see” it at all? If they do happen to take note of the property, what kind of thoughts does it evoke about what goes on in the building? About the kind of people who meet there? About God? It is true that you cannot tell a book by its cover, but does the cover make you want to read the book?
Context makes a big difference, of course. Considering the upscale nature of Upper St. Clair (did you see the new house going up across the street on the hill above the church?), Cool’s questions are particularly pointed.
“Will people who spend $500,000 plus on their house, that are not yet believers, want to come to the little metal building around the corner? Maybe, but to a passer-by, what are you communicating with your building and campus? Is it appealing? Does it spark a positive emotional reaction? Does it say, ‘Come check us out” without posting a billboard or sign? Does the community see you as an asset or a detriment?”
This is not to say that our building needs to be opulent or look like the Crystal Cathedral or the Hines Memorial Chapel. Not at all. What it does mean, however, is that we need to be intentional about our facility. We must see it through the eyes of those driving by who do not know us or Jesus. What message does our property convey to them? The fact is, our building is the most highly visible tool we have for making disciples. It is also our most expensive discipleship tool. It stands to reason, then, that we would maximize its potential. If we want people to hear the story we have to tell, we have to make the book cover attractive.
Here is an idea. As you drive around the community (particularly Upper St. Clair), try to view everything with a set of fresh eyes. Look at the buildings, campuses, and homes. Observe the schools, office buildings, shopping centers. Take note of signs, driveways, and landscaping. What strikes you about their appearance? What stories do they tell? Does the first impression draw you in with a double-take, or does the appearance make you glad you are driving by and not stopping? When we acknowledge how much the design and condition of property matters, we will start to see our church facility differently.
As we near the completion of our facility master planning process, seeing through fresh eyes could not be more important. A new chapter is being written in the life of Upper St. Clair Alliance Church, and our facility is a vital part of that exciting story.
Cool, Tim. (2013). Why church buildings matter: The story of your space. Rainer Publishing. USA.