4 Simple Rules About Where Your Church Meets

Pastor Rick Warren loves to tell the “moving” story of Saddleback – about how they moved so often in the early years of the church it became a standing puzzle on Sundays to figure out where they would meet the following week. Here’s how he tells it:

If you’ve ever heard the story of Saddleback, you know we moved from one location to another for twelve years before moving onto our campus in 1992. We met in 67 locations in our first 15 years of existence — and broke every church-planting rule that says you must have a consistent meeting location! We grew to more than 10,000 in attendance before we had our first building.

So I’ve never believed that meeting locations are critical to a church fulfilling its mission.

But where you meet to worship is still an important ministry tool for your church. Here are four simple rules we’ve learned at Saddleback throughout the years.

  • Don’t let the shoe tell the foot how big it can get – Never be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to making the most out of your worship space. When your meeting space begins to limit your growth, then it is time to think creatively. Add another service. Find a different venue. Do whatever it takes.
  • Make sure you have enough space – When your service is 80 percent filled, you need to start another service. This is one of the reasons many churches plateau. They don’t believe they need to add another service because they have a few open seats available. When you run out of space, you experience what Pete Wagner calls “sociological strangulation!”
  • Make sure you don’t have too much meeting space – On the other hand, you can have too much space. Many churches have built a building far too large for them to fill. Too much space can keep a church from growing. If you have 200 people sitting in an auditorium that seats 750, it’ll seem like no one is there. But if you have 90 people in a space that’ll hold 100, it will seem as if your church is the place to be. It’s almost impossible to create a feeling of warmth and intimacy when there are more empty chairs than people.
  • The smaller the crowd, the closer the speaker should be to them – As your crowd grows larger, the lectern or pulpit can be moved farther back and raised on a higher stage. If you only have 50 people in a service, put a lectern just a few feet in front of your first row. Forget the stage.

Read more from Rick here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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