Church Buildings

Adam McLane recently posted this interesting blog. In it, he essentially poses the question, would churches better reach their communities without church buildings?

Since reading this blog, I’ve been contemplating this idea.

For five years I worked at a church that rented space from two other churches instead of owning its own building. During this time, I truly began to believe that churches were better off without the added expense that comes from owning their own buildings. In fact, during this time, I vividly remember thinking “I hope that I’m never part of a church that’s doing a capital campaign again. What a waste!”

Fast forward to last fall when I changed jobs and found myself at a church immersed in a capital campaign. Mind you, this isn’t what it’s called in my context. Instead, it’s called the ministry growth campaign. The underlying idea behind this campaign is that if we can raise enough money to pay off what’s left of the church’s mortgage, we’ll then be able to use the freed up money to better finance the existing ministries of the church, a strategy that I actually believe has merit.


Not because of the additional money that will hopefully be available for our youth ministry but instead because in the last year, I’ve come to believe that owning a church building can actually be a resource that, when well-used, allows a church to better reach its community.

For example, my church building is in an excellent location, just off the expressway and a major thoroughfare in our suburb. It’s also located directly across the street from a large refugee community. Our church’s location is recognizable and well-known, especially because our building is always in use.

Throughout the week, our church doesn’t just provide offices for our staff and meeting places for our church’s ministry. Instead, our building houses a preschool and an adult daycare center. It also provides offices for DuPage United, a community advocacy group. Whenever there is an election, it serves as a polling place for the community. Several times a year, we open our doors for flu clinics and blood drives. In the evenings, besides our youth ministry and other church ministries, you can also find community concerts, regular meetings of Teen Parent Connection – a group that ministers to teenage parents, One Stitch at a Time – a group that teaches refugees how to sew, and weekly ESL and computer classes for the nearby refugee community.

Rarely is our church building empty. Instead, it’s an active place that provides a safe haven for both Christians and non-Christians. It provides our community with a resource and in so doing, it demonstrates our church’s value of Christian hospitality.

In his book, “Jesus Wants to Save Christians,” Rob Bell poses the question, “If our church was taken away – from our city, our neighborhood, our region – who would protest?”

I truly believe our community would. Would yours?

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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