In our last post, we started to explore the 5 Consequences of Too Much Building. We spent all of our time with the first consequence:
#1: - The Money Pit
- Higher Utility Costs
- Deferred Maintenance
- Deferred Maintenance SQUARED
This week we want to look at the other 4 issues:
#2 - The Debt Trap - This is the consequence that burdens churches when they build too big, usually maxing out their borrowing capacity (which generally is not prudent). In these cases, the church is then strapped with mortgage payments that can strangle the funds needed for ministry and/or it can elongate the debt term, as a church may opt for a 20-30 year amortization in an attempt to reduce the monthly payment. While I must admit that I have encouraged churches to do this, it has only been when a church is in a significant upward swing related to attendance AND giving. Otherwise, this is a slippery slope.
#3 - Guest Perception - Have you ever gone to a function, event, or public place expecting to see lots of people only to be under-whelmed by the lack of attendance? This is not just true in a church that is too big for the attendance, but any public setting. I remember going to a Charlotte Hornets game when the team was doing poorly (it was the only time I could afford tickets). The arena had no energy and it felt like I was at a funeral wake instead of a vibrant event. Guests are going to judge a portion of their experience by how the worship space "feels" to them. Does it feel crowded or empty? If empty, will they wonder if the church is dying? These perceptions will play a significant role in their decision to attend again.
#4 - "Wrong Sizing" - In keeping with the above, not only are guest perceptions impacted, but the overall feel of the room can have an emotional and functional impact on even your regular attenders experience. Have you ever been to a church service that was sparsely attended and people are spread out all over the room - one over here...2 over there...a couple more in the back right corner? Then comes the time for offering; the ushers have to go down half this row to get to the first person sitting in the 7th seat who, in turn, has to stand up and walk the plate to the next person 5 seats away. If your pastor is one that says, "Tell your neighbor XXX", but you have no neighbor; in fact, no one has a neighbor...that is awkward.
#5- Worship Impact - Worship is a personal act but when in a worship "service" it is intended to be a group activity. However, when you have too much building in your worship space, congregational worship suffers. If you can not hear those singing around you, you are less likely to sing out. If there is no energy in the room, you will be less likely to express yourself.
For #2 above...be smart...don't over extend...have a plan to pay off debt sooner than later. I know, it sounds simple. But too many churches fail to get this right.
As for the other 3 items, there are several things that could be done:
- "Right size" the room - this could be done with permanent walls or partitions or pipe and drape. Getting the room to feel full will add to the guest and member experience and it will add energy. If you do it with fixed walls, you might actually save money in utility costs.
- Shrink Seating - If you are not inclined to "right size" the room, then consider shrinking the seating. This can be done by increasing the size of the platform as well as removing seats from the space.
- Rope it off - If neither of the above are acceptable solutions, then consider at least "roping-off" the back rows and closing off the balcony. This is a hint to strongly encourage people to move closer.
- Use another room - If your attendance has reached a point that none of the above would help, then consider moving your service to another part of your facility. Do you have a space that is large enough to house the current attendance that you could occupy? Again, this not only makes the space and services feel better, it can save on utilities and other operational expenses.
None of these consequences are pleasant to deal with, but deal with them you must. Do not stick your head in the sand and pretend that these issues do not exist. Facing reality is the first step to developing a solution and moving forward.
For assistance on Life Cycle Planning, download your free copy of the eBook, Capital Reserve Planning.