The 6th Stupid Thing that Surratt suggests will keep churches from growing is clinging to a bad location. He has some great examples of how location has hindered the growth of several churches he’s known. A location that’s difficult to find or located far from where the people of the church and those they’re seeking to reach actually live can be a huge obstacle for a church to overcome. Inadequate, shoddy facilities, or even those that are simply not designed for the ministry the church wants to do can keep the church from moving forward.
The problem for most youth ministries is that we’ll have very little input on location and facilities issues. If you’re in a new church or a recently relocated church this may not be the case, but most of us haven’t had much of a say in deciding our address. To make matters worse, this is a pretty complicated issue AND an emotional one. People get emotionally attached to buildings.
Currently, our church meets in what was once a lumber yard. The congregation was out of space in their building in one of the older neighborhoods in town, so they bought the lumber yard and began renovation. As growth continued over they years, the renovated showroom became less than adequate, so they built a larger auditorium which was finished about 6 years ago. The facilities themselves are good. We have plenty of room to grow and for the most part, the building space is very usable and flexible. But our location is not nearly as good.
We’re in a fairly small town, so this isn’t as huge an issue as it could be, but our location is out on the edge of town on the far side of a farm field behind a couple big box stores. Our “neighbors” are a beer distributor, an old bean elevator, some storage units, a furniture store, and an RV dealer. In my opinion, this is not a prime location – especially for youth ministry to kids who’d have to walk past all that to get here any time their parents can’t bring them. I almost never have kids just drop by. But, it is what it is… we are here, not there, so what can we do to overcome the location? What can you do to overcome what may be a location obstacle?
- Maximize what we’ve got. Because the new auditorium hosts most of the congregational activities, we’ve been able to reclaim the old one primarily for youth and children’s ministry. We’re working toward making this a great space for facilitating connections with students & with God.
- Shift our thinking away from our facility. The church is not your building. When our student ministries are limited to what happens at our location, no matter how great that location & facility may be, we’re missing an important component of student ministry. How are we training youth leaders to do youth ministry outside of the weekly event? Where else could we hang out with students for discipleship?
- Establish outposts. Your church may be in a position to establish some kind of youth ministry center outside of your existing facilities (hopefully located within walking distance for most students)… Maybe you could partner with a few churches to establish a youth center… Check out what my friend Mike is doing in Norton, KS or The Bridge in Joplin, MO for a couple examples (but beware: the next stupid thing is “copying another successful” ministry).
How are you and your youth ministry challenged by your facilities? How are you responding?