One of the most challenging decisions facing church planters is the selection of a venue. Churches must navigate the tensions of ambiance, accessibility and capacity. We spoke to three church leaders who have recently moved into new venues about their decision making process, unexpected wins and any advice they have for those considering a venue change.
Responses from Chris Knight in Auburn Washington; Iain Kennedy in Glasgow, Scotland and PJ Smyth in Washington DC.
What did you factor in when selecting your venue?
First off, we really wanted to find a permanent base for Stone Church, as we had been sharing a school venue for two years. We wanted to be in the heart of city, in a venue that we could renovate to make our own. Obviously it needed to be in our price range (the largest challenge for sure).
We really wanted a venue with city-wide accessibility and that would put the person who doesn’t know Jesus at ease. We have a vision for the whole Glasgow area, where we gather centrally on a Sunday but in our Grace Communities in homes and cafes during the week. The city-center location has let that dream start to take shape.
Firstly, we felt the location was of primary importance. It needed to serve our most committed group of members well. People will generally be put off by a long drive and so accessibility was high on the list.
Secondly, we wanted a venue that spoke to our value of being in society and among the people.
Now that you are each a couple of weeks in, how has the venue strengthened what you are doing, even in unexpected ways?
Now that we have a dedicated space, we’re having people serve less with their hands (less setup) and more with their hearts as they have more time to engage with one another. The most unexpected benefit of our new venue would be the space and freedom it has given us to pray during and after our services. Our Gathering room is a perfect size and atmosphere to invite folks forward for prayer, and we’ve seen many people pray during services, accept prayer from our team and even pray after the services are over!
I have to admit that I wasn’t sure if the right building would make a huge difference to the person who doesn’t know Jesus, but we’ve had a few people, with no church background, tell us that they find the building a really easy place to explore faith!
Our location has turned out to be better than expected, proving accessible to the community around us. We were also concerned that the lighting was harsh, but after rigging up some warmer ambient lights the mood is far more conducive to community building. The school hall does not have a foyer, however keeping the hospitality service in the main venue has created a coziness and warmth that might have been missing if it was in another room. Finally, we are able to make use of classrooms which are very secure and very close to the main venue. This has allowed new parents to feel comfortable leaving their kids with us during meetings.
Anything you would like to recommend to leaders who are currently choosing a new venue?
One thing I would advise others looking for a new venue is what Jesus says in Luke 11;
“Ask, seek and knock. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened (Luke 11:10).”
I read this in my daily reading plan back in November and just began praying exact, clear, faith-filled prayers for our desired meeting space. Over time it’s as if almost every one of those “ask, seek, knock” prayers were specifically answered. Crazy to think about it in hindsight.
Don’t just look out for the things that can be a distraction to people coming to receive from Jesus, eliminate them for the sake of the gospel!
Pete Cornford and Matt Hosier really helped us to fight for the right building in our context and we’re so glad they did. Reach out to people in your context who have been there before.
Proximity to your core group is very important. As far as possible avoid making people drive a long way to get to you. Secondly, most venues can be made conducive using better lighting and pipe-and-drape systems – keep these in mind when considering venue options. Finally, if you have the finance go for a great venue that will support your values and vision.