I have visited churches that don’t take pride in their buildings. After all, a church is not the building, but the people. As a result, the building is allowed to deteriorate into disrepair; the paintwork peeling off; entrances, ministry rooms and the main worship hall cluttered with all kinds of stuff (wanted and unwanted); and the grounds left unkempt.
This is particularly evident of churches that use rented shop lots (and in Malaysia, they make up a good majority). As the premises don’t belong to them there may be little ownership and motivation to keep the place in good condition. There is even less sense of responsibility for the common areas, such as the corridors; and public areas, like the five-foot way. I have been to churches where throwaways (by other tenants) were stuffed under the staircase leading to the church in the upper floors, unsightly debris along the five-foot way, and the only-to-be-found-in-Malaysia heinous Ah Long stickers plastered all over the external walls of the buildings.
I am not suggesting that church buildings have to be lavishly done up, but they must at least be smart and the facilities be in good-working condition. The surroundings do not have to be in manicured-condition but it must at least be clean and neat.
Why is it so important to keep church premises presentable? Because it shapes a visitor’s first impression of the church. Consciously or unconsciously the following questions will be swirling around in his mind, and what he sees will inevitably lead him to make certain deductions about the church.
1. Are the people proud of their church?
A poorly-kept facility is an indicator that the members have an indifferent attitude towards their church.
A well-kept facility tells a visitor that the people are proud of their church and that they like their church.
2. Is the church serious about drawing in new people?
A poorly-kept facility is an indicator that the church couldn’t-care-less what outsiders think about the church.
A well-kept facility says that the church is concerned about providing an environment that is welcoming to visitors. They want, at the very least, to give their visitors a good first impression of their church.
3. Is “good quality” a value of the church?
A poorly-kept facility is an indicator that “good quality” is not a value of the church. If it cannot be seen in the care of its premises, it is unlikely that quality will be valued in other areas of the church’s life and ministry.
A well-kept facility is a sign that the church values “good quality”—in everything; with everything they have and in everything they do. I believe you will be hard-pressed to find a church with good quality ministries but whose building and facilities are out of whack through indifference.
4. Can I happily engage in worship in this church environment?
A poorly-kept facility, especially in the main worship hall, will put most visitors off from worship. The environment matters! If it is not conducive for worship because of clutter and peeling paint (and maybe odour) it is not going to encourage a visitor to return.
On the other hand, walking through a pleasant environment and into an equally or even more pleasant worship hall will enhance a visitor’s engagement in worship. This will certainly give him positive vibes.
5. If I am looking for a church, do I want to come back for a second look?
A well-kept facility may not be the deciding factor for a visitor, whether he would come back for a second visit or, for that matter, to join the church. However, a poorly-kept facility will guarantee that a visitor will not come back for second look!
If you are a pastor or church leader, let me encourage you to take some time this week to do a church facility audit.