The idea of portable church is not only an American phenomenon; it is a global one, with millions of people being impacted for Christ every weekend. In North America alone, we estimate that there are 24,000 portable churches on any given weekend, impacting more 6,000,000 lives for Christ.
In our twelve years of existence, we’ve seen churches meet in a variety of places. We’ve seen planters and pastors envision ministry where few have gone before, and have helped them meet in places as unusual as bowling alleys, casinos and even funeral homes.
When setting out to find your place of ministry, consider the following checklist:
- Capacity Constraints (Adult Seating Areas, Children’s Areas, Parking Spaces)
- Stature in the Community (How is this building perceived?)
- Location, Location, Location
- Accessibility for the CommunityHidden Make-or-Break Topics
Just as important as that initial checklist are some hidden make-it-or-break-it items.
Take, for instance, the electrical capacity. In schools, your accessibility to electricity may be spot-on, but may be limited in other venues. If your ministry will operate at a sophisticated multi-media level, this is a very important aspect to consider.
Just as important is your ability to move ministries & equipment, at a moment’s notice, when asked to by your landlord. A client of ours in upstate NY was recently asked to relocate his children’s ministry from the gym to the cafeteria due to a boy’s basketball tournament. He was able to do that, with relative ease, because his ministry gear was robust enough to bear a locational change.
With this in mind, it is important to note that we do not recommend utilizing the venue’s “offered” equipment. When the movie theatre manager tells you to “feel free to use our speakers”, we encourage you to seriously consider other options before committing to use a “free” piece of equipment. Remember – the movie theatre’s livelihood depends on the use of that speaker system. It takes only one false move by a well-meaning volunteer to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for the movie theatre, and thousands of dollars from your budget for compensation. It is often a good decision to invest in your own equipment up-front, rather than run the risk of mitigating your landlord’s ability to safeguard his investment, and spend thousands of more dollars in the long run!
What is the general culture of the facility? Is it conducive to your ministry aspects? Will using this facility cause you to forfeit a portion of your vision?
What is the aroma of this building? Nightclubs, gymnasiums and older YMCA’s can have a lingering or stale odor that is difficult to mask with backdrops and other such bright items. A church in Royal Oak, MI was using a Saturday-night-only Dance Club for their services, but noticed the smell of cigarettes and liquor often lingered from the night before. They then arranged for a few volunteers to come in early enough every Sunday morning to clean and air-out the building. It worked wonderfully, and the “church” was inviting enough for newcomers and staunch supporters alike.
Where are the restrooms? This is a two-fold consideration. The first is simply a question of acoustics. If your restrooms are located to close to where the pastor is preaching, your Sunday talks may be peppered with sounds of flushing! Check to see if there are restrooms available for use that are both far enough away from the “sanctuary” to avoid disruption and are still convenient for your members. The second consideration has to do with the size of the fixtures. Using preschools, nurseries or elementary schools can lend itself to also having to take advantage of small, child-size fixtures. There may be other restrooms in the facility that are not as diminutive and may be available for use.
What is the layout of the building? Is it generally conducive to a first-timer being able to navigate, with simply the use of signs? Where is the sanctuary in relation to the children’s areas? How far will a parent have to walk to pick up / drop off their children?
Pros & Cons of Facilities
As you can see from the graphic on the right, the majority of our clients choose to meet in schools. The “other” section includes facilities ranging from pizza parlors to fire houses (a complete list of facilities is available upon request).
Pros of Using a School
Stature in Community
Diverse Room Size Availability – Both for Adults & Children
Cons / Capacity in a School
Elementary Schools Typical Maximum Capacity is 200/service
Middle Schools Typical Maximum Capacity is 400/service
High Schools’ Typical Maximum Capacity is 600-1600 / service
Pros of Using a Movie Theatre
Political Stability (no “board” to deal with)
Large Video Screen
Drinks / Beverages Allowed in Worship Area
Large Parking Lot
Cons of Using a Movie Theatre
“High Traction” Flooring
Limited Electrical Capacity
Children’s Ministry Challenges
Pros of “Other” Venues
Can Attract Non-Traditional Seekers
Can Attract “Gen-X”
Can be Emergent-Church Friendly
Can be Suitable for Artisan / Experiential Worship
Cons of “Other” Venues
Can Have Lack of Clarity
Can Have Limited Sightlines & Access
Can Have Limited Options for Children’s Ministries
There is a lot to consider when finding the right home for your dream. We, at PCI, believe that “church” is less about a building, and more about a body of people. We’ve seen plants in the most peculiar of places and watched God move in amazing ways! If you would like further advice on choosing your facility, please give us a call at 1-800-939-7722.
© Kendra Malloy, Portable Church Industries