The holiday season is a time when we celebrate the relationships we have. We celebrate our salvation. We celebrate family, friendships and the giving spirit, and make extraordinary efforts to make the time special. People take special pride in the lights, decorations and “fixins” that make Christmas special. As believers, we treasure the birth of our Savior and want others to celebrate with us.
Churches get into the same spirit. Special decorations, music and programming are highlighted as we reach out to our communities with “good news of great joy.” Christmas is special, but in reality, every time we gather, we celebrate the miraculous relationship we have with a living God, and because of that, we should always be “ready for company.” With that in mind, here are five things to consider in preparing your facilities to impact our communities.
• Improve your curb appeal. Pay special attention to how your buildings look to the community. Landscaping, updated signage, parking lots and recognizable entrances are basic ways to make good first impressions on guests and even those who may never attend, but regularly pass by. Have guest parking marked and convenient to major entrances. Consider providing special parking for senior adults and parents of preschoolers. If you have a message sign, make sure it is changed regularly and is informative.
Although not actually a part of the physical plant, pay special attention to the church’s website. Recent research has revealed that when people are looking for a church, they will most likely research the internet. Make your website informative, up-to-date and attractive. Don’t make people look for information. Keep it simple.
• Clean up the clutter. Foyers, bulletin boards, furniture, hallways, and stairwells are magnets for clutter. There may be a great reason for having specific things stored in a particular place, but if it adds to the cluttered look, then find another place for it.
I once evaluated a church with a very small foyer area. A major piece of furniture in the area was a piece of pulpit furniture that was no longer needed on the platform. When I asked why it was there, no one seemed to know except it was “convenient.” Relocating it allowed for better traffic flow and a better impression for guests.
• Practice regular maintenance. Make sure restrooms, floors, hallways, and classrooms are cleaned regularly. Set a schedule for updating paint and other cosmetic features. Replace lighting as needed and make sure glass doors and windows are cleaned regularly. Carpet seams should be repaired immediately. This is not only cosmetic but can also be a liability issue. Children’s play areas, both inside and out, should be clean and well maintained.
• Look at your facilities through fresh eyes. As a staff member, I supervised a maintenance worker that was great at his job, but because he was so familiar with the facilities, he would sometimes overlook obvious needs, such as spider webs under covered walkways. I had to develop a checklist for him to follow in order to make sure nothing was overlooked.
In like manner, church members often get so familiar with our surroundings that we overlook obvious things that guests would notice. As you evaluate your facilities, look at them through “unfamiliar eyes.” This can be done by asking someone outside your church, or you can do it yourself by working through a systematic checklist. In order to assist you, you can find an evaluation titled “Evaluating Facilities Through the Eyes of a Guest,” which can be found at http://www.absc.org/resources/evaluating-your-facilities-through-the-eye-of-your-guests-. Allow church leaders to use this resource to make an honest evaluation of your facilities, and then schedule a time to make the necessary corrections.
Someone said, “Scriptures say the gospel will be offensive to those without Christ, but that should be the only thing in the church that should be offensive.” Use this holiday season to get ready for company, but then continue throughout the year to find ways to impact our communities for Christ. That is why we exist as a church, so let’s do all we can to make our facilities appealing to others.
Lynn Riley is a member of the Evangelism and Church Health team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and works in the areas of church health, bi-vocational pastors, smaller membership churches, and architecture/space analysis. He has served as a pastor, minister of youth and minister of education in Texas, Missouri, and Louisiana. Lynn and his wife Cheryl live in Sherwood and are members of Baring Cross Baptist Church.