By Scott Cougill
My experience as a missionary, executive pastor — and now CEO of Portable Church Industries — confirms a bold statement Timothy Keller made in his Why Plant Churches white paper:
“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city.”
But how can churches quickly and effectively launch new campuses and new churches when the costs, upkeep and space limitations of permanent campuses sometimes get in the way?
By renting alternative venues in the communities they want to reach.
Why? Here are four main reasons.
#1: Lower Costs
It is hard to know what size shoe to buy when you don’t know the size of your foot. Growing your church in a portable venue where the overhead is very low allows you to run the church on about 20% of the income compared to a permanent building so that other money can be leveraged toward its future. Down the road, maybe in three to five years — after a strong, steady congregation is developed — a permanent location can be built/acquired.
If you are considering a multisite campus in the future, one good research resource is a 7-part micro course we developed with various multisite church leaders as they share their challenges and best practices about launching campuses. It’s free and can be found here.
#2: Speed, Flexibility, Growth, Reproducible
Compared to building a new campus, rented venues allow you to enter (and possibly exit) a community faster measuring time to open a new location in weeks/months not years.
As the needs of your church grow, rented venues are more likely to be able to adjust or change to match your needs.
In a period of three years — while I was Executive Pastor of Pacific Crossroads Church in Los Angeles — our adult attendance doubled and more families with children began attending. We outgrew two different schools we were renting and ended up in the largest high school in the area.
We would have been in serious trouble if we had been in a permanent space.
#3: Redeeming Public Space & Community Involvement
We live in an increasingly post-Christian culture. For many, “holy buildings” can be intimidating.
Rather than ask people to “come to us,” portable churches get to “go to them” — and use spaces that are used throughout the week by the people you are trying to reach.
As more and more churches launch in rented spaces, finding the right facility often requires more effort. If you are in this stage, I recommend a great, free resource we offer called Choosing the Right Facility.
Another opportunity rented venues provide is partnerships with the landlord or community-at-large. One great example of someone who values community partnership is Jordan Rice, the lead pastor of Renaissance Church, which launched in a Harlem, NY, city school. He offers some excellent counsel:
“I can’t emphasize how important it is to be known as the type of church that exists to help others. The principals and staff at our schools should know you by how much you’re willing to serve the school and community with no strings attached. That type of love is permanent even if you’re a portable church.”
#4: Volunteer Engagement
At the heart of the portable church experience is a group of dedicated volunteers who set up and tear down all the equipment needed to turn the facility into a sacred space each week. As a result, portable churches engage more volunteers and a wider spectrum of people serve on their teams — often more men.
And when churches treat this challenge as an incredible opportunity, more people volunteer. They are more engaged. They give more. They invite more guests. And, they stay involved.
The most successful portable churches prepare for launch by designing their equipment and systems with the volunteer in mind to maximize the volunteer experience while being efficient and creating an excellent, welcoming environment.
Because this is a unique challenge, many churches engage experts in portability on the front end to help design volunteer-centric solutions that are optimized to the specific venue and culture of the church.
How Portable Church Industries may assist
We are obviously biased about how awesome portable churches can be. After assisting more than 2,500 church and campus launches in rented facilities across North America, we know how important it is to continually be launching worshipping communities.
To do that with excellence, takes much prayer and planning.
If you would like to discuss strategy — or are planning to launch a new campus in the next few months, or even the next few years — please reach out to us via our website: portablechurch.com.
Interested in the primary Principles of Portability? Check out that free white paper on our website, as well.
Scott Cougill is CEO of Portable Church Industries in Troy, MI, a company that has partnered with more than 2,000 churches to launch strong and thrive in rented spaces. Find Cougill on Twitter @ScottCougill. For more information, download a free eBook that goes into many more specifics about volunteer structure, training, setup strategies and staffing.