The oldest church facility in the Christian Reformed denomination, Pillar Church, is located in Holland, Michigan. A decade ago the facility seemed destined to become a museum as the congregation continued to age and decline. Then, miraculously, the Spirit enlivened the congregation. Today hundreds gather during two morning worship services including large numbers of college students from a campus located kitty-corner to the church’s property.
One beautiful expression of renewal at Pillar (now a dual affiliation congregation with the RCA) is the “smile” congregational leaders put on the facility. In the beautifully shaded front lawn are a dozen or more Adirondack chairs beckoning the community to come and sit for a while. Additionally, banners often stretch between giant hardwoods welcoming students and residents.
Renewal churches should consider how they can put a smile on their own facilities. A “smiling” facility is an important part of hospitality extended to the community where renewal congregations live.
Here are simple ways to put a smile on your facilities…
BEGIN WITH GOOD MAINTENANCE
Many churches overlook necessary maintenance. Paint is chipping on the eves. Dandelions are growing in the lawn. Parking lots are weathered and potholed. Simply caring for building and grounds goes a long way toward putting a smile on your facilities.
CREATE ENCOURAGING SIGNAGE
Church signs, and other forms of external communication, can put a smile on your facility. Signage that allows changeable messaging is particularly helpful in extending invitations and encouragement to near neighbors. Beware, however, the temptation to use the church sign as a wagging finger. Churches are sometimes drawn to moralistic platitudes rather than kind words of encouragement.
INVEST IN A SEASONAL FLARE
Seasonal gardening and decorating are a great way to put a smile on a facility. An abundance of spring flowers followed by summer foliage are a gift to the community. Additional, seasonal decorating could include harvest themed displays or Advent season decor.
FIND AN “EXTRA” AS A GIFT TO YOUR COMMUNITY
Churches with hospitable hearts often look for an extra act of hospitality to bless their neighbors. The extra may include a community garden, a family picnic area, a meditation garden or labyrinth, a playground, basketball hoops for community teens, benches along a sidewalk or bike path, or a small book depository where neighbors can drop off or pick up free books. The possibilities for this “extra” are limitless.
Someone once said that if you can teach your congregation to smile you’ll grow by 20%. Churches would also do well to teach their facilities to put on a smile.