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Church Planting Tutorial: 17. Facilities

Finding a meeting place is a major task for most new churches. Buying or even leasing a facility in the beginning is not possible for the church plant, so you will likely need to look at an assortment of leasing and renting options. Here are a few of the most popular ideas for renting followed by some facility considerations to help you make a wise decision from the beginning.

Typical Church Plant Rental Ideas

  • Schools (Public, Private, College, Day Care) – Many counties/cities allow schools to be rented by outside organizations.  This is a great solution for a new church.
  • Movie theatres – Children’s ministry is more difficult in a theatre than in a school, but the increased value of a theatre in terms of community name recognition (i.e., there is great marketing value in a theatre as everyone within miles knows where it is) makes this a good option to pursue.  See Theatre Church Regal Cinemas for more information.
  • Community Centers – Sometimes small and often very local (without broader name recognition) outside a specific community.
  • Hotels – Many hotels have ballrooms and conference rooms available on Sunday mornings.
  • Private Businesses/Companies – Many local businesses have auditoriums and/or large meeting rooms.  Get creative!
  • Other Churches – Possibility for a Saturday or Sunday night service.

We shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us.
Winston Churchill

Choosing the Right Place

Choosing the right facility for your church plant is obviously a vital milestone in your efforts to plant a new church. When setting out to find your place of ministry, consider the following:

  • Capacity Constraints (Adult Seating Areas, Children’s Areas, Parking Spaces)
  • Atmosphere
  • Stature in the Community (How is this building perceived?)
  • Location, Location, Location
  • Accessibility for the Community

Hidden Make-or-Break Topics:

The factors discussed above are good reminders of things you probably thought about. [bctt tweet=”Choosing a facility…Abraham, Moses or Solomon…choices! #churchplanting”]Here are a few hidden make-it-or-break items that you may not have thought of, but really make a huge difference in the long run:

  1. Electrical capacity. Some venues have plenty of capacity to handle all your electrical requirements. Make sure you look at (and have access to) the electrical panel. Have someone who knows power requirements assist you in this. Don’t assume it will just work! Expect your coffee pots to trip breakers–cold coffee doesn’t cut it!
  2. Logistical Constraints. You need to have the ability to move ministries & equipment, at a moment’s notice if 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.
  3. Restrooms.  Where are the restrooms? This is a two-fold consideration. The first is simply a question of acoustics. If your restrooms are located too 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.
  4. Indigenous Equipment. 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!
  5. Building Layout.  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?
  6. Other Thoughts. A few other items of deliberation should include culture, aroma and layout. 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 aerosols and air fresheners. 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.

Milestone: Select a Facility

Surprises to Avoid

Here’s a great post that highlights the need to pay attention to the details and fine print: Five Church Plant Facility Lease Surprises to Avoid/ Take a good look before you leap into any agreements and always consult with experts in the field.


Visit your local county or city planning office and get a list of every organization with an occupancy permit of over 200.   This list will help you identify facilities in your area where large groups are allowed to meet. Checkout our Free Downloads to find documents to help you get started.  Here’s a sampling of free resources to consider:

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2 thoughts on “Church Planting Tutorial: 17. Facilities”

  1. Good content, thanks! And, no offense, but Ron Sylvia is plagiarizing Marshall McCluhan’s famous “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us” quote. To attribute it to Mr. Sylvia seems dishonest.

    1. Thanks for pointing out my mistake in attributing the quote, “We shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us” to Ron Sylvia. After some research, it seems that quote belongs to Winston Churchill. Ron may have used that in reference, but I was unable to find the quote for the quote (if that makes sense). At any rate, thanks for letting me know!

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