What Makes Your Church Different from 10,000 Other Churches?

God has given your church a specific place and people to minister to. There is no other church in the world exactly like yours, equipped to serve God and your community exactly the way He intends for you to do it. To borrow a phrase from my friend, David Putman, you’ve got to break the missional code of your community. David co-authored the book “Breaking the Missional Code” with Ed Stetzer. In a nutshell this says that you need to find out specifically what it is that your community needs and be that for your community in order for them to be receptive to the gospel.

Our partner Auxano states it in a question: What makes your church different from 10,000 other churches?

Find out what this is for your community and then go be it. Rick Warren was successful with his church model in his specific community in Southern California, but that doesn’t mean you will be successful with his church model in your community in rural Tennessee. Understanding this should give you a sense of relief and freedom, and it should transform your church programmatically and physically. Understanding this will help you see how you can employ intentional and strategic design to best utilize your site and facilities to become the heart of your community.

If your architect or design-builder brings you a set of “stock” plans to pick from (or a set of plans that might as well be, because it looks just like every other church you’ve ever seen), just remember, you get what you pay for, and what you get may have worked for the first church is was designed for, but you aren’t that church, and it may not work for you or your community. Now what I’m NOT saying is that every project has to be designed from scratch. Each project doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. In fact, to paraphrase a quote often attributed to various artists of different mediums, good architects borrow half of what they design, and great architects steal it all.

What this means is there are so many good design elements in existence in both the church and “secular” world and so many well established design “rules-of-thumb” for various ministry programs such that a great architect can draw from a wealth of resources and knowledge of built environments to pull together (“steal”) all the design elements into a cohesive, but still unique, plan that is right for your ministry and your community.

Don’t let any architect or design-builder presume to tell you who you are as a church. The great ones will find out what your DNA is and design a solution to meet your specific functional needs as a church…and your missional needs for your community. A great architect will design with the regional context in mind, taking the time to understand what makes a site in Atlanta different from a site in Louisville, or Los Angeles, or anywhere in between. A great architect will investigate and understand the specific opportunities and constraints of your site, and won’t suggest a “stock” plan to plop down on any site and “make it work”. Your church is not McDonalds, so don’t let your building look just like another McChurch down the road.

The key thing to look for when seeking out an architect to partner with your ministry is how well they listen to you about who you are and who you are trying to reach, so that with intentionality they can create a design to tell your unique story in the built environment. Partnering with a good architect may get you into a functional building, but partnering with a great architect will help your church “do your own thing” better than you could ever imagine.

>> Read more from Jody here.

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Jody Forehand

I am the national Vice President of Operations for Visioneering Studios, an architectural, urban planning, construction, design, and development firm based out of Irvine, California with other offices in Phoenix, Denver, Austin, Chicago, and Charlotte (which is where I’m located). Every day is an incredible journey and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work on some amazing projects with some of the most dynamic and fastest growing churches in the country as well as spend time with incredible people both as coworkers, clients, and friends.

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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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