(above) Living Water Bible Fellowship in Alamosa, Colo.
When considering the church facility construction outlook in 2021 and beyond, I believe it boils down to these two words.
On a flight recently, I happened to be seated next to a project manager from a commercial construction company with projects across the United States. Naturally, I asked the question, “So, how’s business?”
His reply wasn’t surprising because I’ve heard the same from several other colleagues in the construction realm: “It was good through the first part of 2020, but we’re struggling as projects come to an end. Not much new is starting.”
All have come to the same general conclusion, due to the virus of 2020: the economy in their world is bleak.
BUT GOD … that’s where The Kingdom of God separates itself from the economy of the world!
Look back with me through history
In the middle of the desert, wandering without homes, jobs, or even a parcel of land to call their own, God gave His children a vision to build! In exile in a foreign land, displaced from their country, having lost their businesses, their vineyards, their houses, and their property, God put in the heart of Nehemiah and a host of God’s remnant to build! Their economy was devastated, and they were exhausted from all that had happened.
Sound familiar? Their future as a nation looked bleak … BUT GOD!
I’ve seen a similar heart, a similar passion, a similar faith, and undaunting courage as I walked with more than 60 pastors this past year in one way or another. While many have only half of their people back in attendance on Sunday, others haven’t yet had an in-person service. Even so, more than half of these 60-plus pastors are talking about building, renovating, expanding their facilities, or even adding a new campus! As I write this article, I’m sitting in a hotel room preparing to meet with another church leader who wants to renovate an entire five-building campus and start vision planning for a third new location.
God’s Kingdom and God’s economy don’t ebb and flow with the world. Like all of Jesus’ teaching, when God moves, it is, most often, the exact opposite of what the world would expect.
The outlook our team has seen in the last half of 2020 confirms this fact once again
We’ve experienced increased interest from pastors and churches considering renovating, expanding and preparing their facilities for the future. It has been amazing to sit with, and hear the vision of, pastors whose churches are buying land, purchasing buildings, and preparing for growth — despite what’s going on in the world around them. There’s vision, passion and expectancy of what God will do next. Many have used this time to make long-overdue changes while their buildings have been empty. Just as God gave vision so long ago, He continues to give insight and vision today to build for tomorrow.
In light of this past year, design changes for ministry facilities are a topic of discussion with many church leaders. While most have acknowledged the need to provide adequate space for post-production tasks, in-house recording venues and improved broadcast quality systems, many aren’t making sweeping measures and radically changing the landscape of ministry facility design. We’re created for connection with our Heavenly Father and with one another. Because of this, adequately designed spaces must continue to facilitate that need. With modern technology, the church must have a strong online presence to reach people who haven’t yet stepped through the doors. All the while, the mission of making disciples — especially the way Jesus did it — requires opportunity to be with people, and not just on weekends, but through the entire journey of life. Ministry facilities must provide more than a weekend meeting place; they should be used to safely empower and enable people to connect, do life, ministry, grow and worship, all while being together.
With an economic outlook that might seem uncertain (or even bleak to some), and with construction and material costs on the rise, many churches and pastors aren’t focusing on the circumstances, but on the vision God has placed in their hearts to advance the message of the Gospel, to expand their ministry reach, and to grow the Kingdom. They’re planning, designing and building in the midst of these unique times, believing in their heart … BUT GOD!
Rodney C. James, a former pastor, is president and founder of Master’s Plan Church Design & Construction in Tulsa, Okla.