I love duct tape as much as the next guy. In fact, I believe that I can repair just about anything in our house with duct tape. When I was in my early years of college I took a 2-year sabbatical to travel with a musical group out of Nashville called “Bridge”. We did over 350 concerts a year, traveling from town to town and church to church. Every night we did a concert in a new location and so we set up and tore down our sound system each night. We had wires going everywhere. In order to “dress up” the stage and to make it safe to navigate the performance area, we used duct tape to secure the wires. We would buy a case of it at a time, burning through a case every few weeks. I even had to repair a pair of pants, due to an attire malfunction, with duct tape until we could locate a seamstress.
It is the dream product for repairing and securing just about anything. However, after our concerts each night, we pulled up the duct tape and threw it away. It did not stay as a permanent part of the décor of the church we were at. It was installed and removed the same day…because it was never intended to be a permanent fixture in the facility. Interestingly enough, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I visit a church that has elected to use duct tape as a permanent component of their interior design scheme. The congregation steps over the duct tape week in and week out totally oblivious to the grey stripe on the worn-out carpet.
The longer you live in a space, the less you see the obvious. For your regular attenders, they become immune to the condition of the facility. It is kind of like putting a frog in a pot of cool water then turning up the temp to bring it to a boil. We stop seeing the trees for the forest. We walk past the grass growing in the cracks of the parking lot. We step over the torn carpet. We know exactly how to avoid the potholes in the parking lot. We no longer notice the stained ceiling and overlook the odor and condition of our public restroom. But I assure you, your guests do not. These inconsistencies in the story can be just as distracting and repulsive as poor design and the lack of signage and poor interactions.
In recent years our team attended 2 conferences at large influential churches. The first was a church in Southern California with a campus that is the best keep facility I have ever visited. It has 5-6 buildings uniquely located on a 50-acre site with an attention to detail second to none. When you first pull on the property, you are greeted by signage at nearly every intersection of the parking lot to guide you to your destination. The grounds were immaculately manicured and all the hedges trimmed and neat. The buildings were clean and organized, lacking disruptive clutter in the common areas. The restrooms were neat, clean and odor free. Not opulent, but comfortable. The windows and glass was clean and I did not see any duct tape on the floors. I had to look really had to find a handful of things to complain about…and trust me, I was looking. But even the handful of items I found were not deal killers…just me being meticulous.
“Will the condition of our facilities leaving a lasting negative impression on new believers and our guests?”
The other conference was in central Florida at a very large church. This is a church with an impactful TV ministry in central Florida and dynamic pastor. The conference had over 5,000 people in attendance, so this was no small campus. But I was very disappointed with the condition of the facility. The signage once on the campus was lacking and a significant amount of the parking was gravel. As I approached the buildings, after parking in the gravel lot, I was immediately taken back by the lack of care of the grounds. The yards were in desperate need of care and the trees and shrubs needed a good trim. The buildings felt old and tired, lacking any visual appeal. Then as I ventured deeper into the campus, the pathways lead me to the sea of modular classrooms…all looking like a bad public school. In fact, the speaker’s lounge was in one of these spaces, which gave the impression that “OK” was good enough for them. There was no sense of excellence or intentionality to the space. Touring the actual worship center revealed aged and worn pews, carpet that was wrinkled in lieu of laying flat and restrooms that really could have used some TLC.
Now, I am sure there maybe good reasons for this lack of care and as a believer and potentially a highly sensitive observer of spaces, I can still worship and enjoy my time with other believers. But what about our guests, especially those who are not believers. Will they be as forgiving? Will the condition of our facilities leaving a lasting negative impression on them? Will these roadblocks keep them from coming back or sharing their experience with others that may not darken the doors of your church because of what they hear about your facility?
It would be a shame to have been intentional about the design of your facility, parking ministry, themed spaces and script writing, to then be neglectful with the care and condition of the facility. Don’t let the care and upkeep become the forgotten chapter of your story.
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.