What “STORY” Does Your Church Facility Tell? – The Basics

Over the past several years we have become acutely aware of the essence of “story”. We hear this term used in the church world and in business settings.  It has been used to prompt people to open up about their lives and life experiences…to tell their story. On a “corporate” level it is the interwoven thread used to identify the mission, vision, direction and passion of organizations. The reality is, we all have a story.  Some of these stories are sensational while others may seem mundane or routine and others grip our emotions and pull on our heartstrings while transforming us into the story.

What has really grasped me lately is that everyone and everything has a story to tell. People are “reading” those stories even when they are not aware. We do not have to write a screenplay or book to tell our story. When you walk into a room full of people, you will start to read certain aspects of people’s stories and they will start to read yours as well.  They might not see the entire story, but they will see some pretty obvious chapters in that story.  The way you enter the room will tell the chapter of your story related to your self-confidence, or possibly your physical attributes or limitations. The way you shake the hands of the other guests will convey yet another part of the story as will the clothes you are wearing…and you may not have even said a word. In addition, the room itself tells a story (more on that later).

The concept of “story-telling” has become an “Ah Ha” moment for me.  I have learned that some of the most interesting, complex, intuitive and compelling parts of my story are those observed and not heard. If I have to verbally communicate that a component of my story is generosity and kindness, then it is very likely that those attributes are not really part of my non-fiction story, but rather a fictional (Fairly Tale) trait that I want people to believe about me.  Conversely, congruent stories are generally seen and felt long before they are verbally communicated.  In fact, I believe that some parts of our story, those with the most intrinsic value, are never spoken. We did not need to hear Mother Theresa tell us she loved orphans. We do not need to hear a speech by Shaquille O’Neil to know that he is a large man who has done well for himself as a professional athlete. We do not need to have a mother, rocking her baby, to tell us that she loves that gift from God.  No, we can see it.  We can feel it.  There is something that communicates the story to us just by looking at the person or the situation.

“Story” is all around us…in virtually every aspect of our daily experiences, which means that our church and ministry facilities also tell a story. The questions for church leaders are:

What story is your facilities/campus telling?

Are we intentional about the story?

Is the story congruent with who we are, who we “think” we are, what we believe/value, and who we want to reach for Christ?

I believe there are 7 primary factors to story-telling that we need to be cognizant of in relation to our church facilities and a first-time guest’s experience:

  1. Story vs. Fairy Tale
  2. The New “Front Porch”  (click HERE for more on this)
  3. Design/Street-scape
  4. Parking Lot Experience
  5. Way-finding/Environment
  6. Interactions
  7. Condition

We will be exploring each of these areas in more detail and I believe that as we become more acutely aware of the impact of our ministries unique story, and how it impacts our guest and the people God had called us to read in our community, the greater the impact we will have on fulfilling that calling.

Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

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