Trading spaces (church edition)

November 5, 2009 — 2 Comments

Fortune CookiesAnyone who has ever served as an education pastor — or in any similar role — understands the sheer terror that is felt at the mere thought of moving classes around, particularly in a traditional church setting. In fact, I have some ministry friends who simply refuse to do it, having barely survived their wounds from past battles.

Perhaps I’m not so timid. Perhaps I’m not so smart. Whatever the case, this Sunday is a day for trading spaces at my church. And while I’m cautiously optimistic that the moves will go smoothly, I’m also understandably nervous that in spite of my best efforts, maybe there’s a detail or two I’ve overlooked — or a class or two I haven’t yet discovered!

Still, our church is overdue for a purposeful shuffle. This is just the first of a number of moves I anticipate over the course of my ministry here. I’m excited about the opportunity this move will provide us to minister in new ways to our young and median adults. By setting aside an area for relationship building, in keeping with biblical community, I think we will be poised to reach new people.

And as an education pastor, I’m always having to remember the truth in this statement: “100% of the people we will reach are not here yet!” What we do at church is not — and must never be — all about us. The church, in fact, is the only organization that exists for the benefit of those who do not belong to it.

Problems arise though when classes become too attached to a particular space or specific chairs or some other detail. While I have had a few critical comments in the past several weeks, I rejoice in the fact that most people have been exceedingly gracious in this process, many of them simply expressing enthusiasm for the change itself.

But I’m definitely not a person who makes changes for the sake of change alone. Here are a few key reasons changing spaces can be helpful in the life of a church:

  1. Changing spaces forces us to view rooms in a different light. Space is a resource for reaching people. And through the years, as class sizes fluctuate and leaders come and go, space can begin to be used in ways that are not in the best interest of the church as a whole. For example, when one class of 20 people occupies a room that will comfortably accommodate 40 — and blocks access to two or three peripheral classrooms — then it’s time for a change.
  2. Changing spaces causes us to look at the big picture. Over time it’s easy for classes to develop a “first-come, first-served” attitude with regard to rooms. Classrooms are not created equal. And who wouldn’t want a bigger space. After all, that’s the American way, isn’t it? As much as possible though, classrooms need to define a space. For example, it is certainly helpful both to guests and greeters to have all young adults in one area, all senior adults in one area, all single adults in one area, and so on. Of course, this is not always possible, but I think it’s important to do the best you can with what you have to work with.
  3. Changing spaces encourages us to be flexible and adaptable. Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy change all that much — particularly when I’m the one insisting on it! However, I am constantly reminded that any church with no need to change spaces is not a place I’d really want to serve. That’s because only healthy and growing churches have constant space issues. People in growing churches recognize that adaptability is a real necessity.
  4. Changing spaces teaches us to put others first. When faced with moving to a smaller classroom or a less comfortable building or a higher floor, it is natural to become frustrated — even grouchy at times. The good news is that the change itself should be cause to celebrate because obviously God is up to something! One of the real benefits to our changing of spaces is that several rooms are being freed up in order to begin new classes.
  5. Changing spaces reminds us that all the space belongs to God. That’s right! It’s not ours anyway; it’s his space to use. We just get to borrow it for a season. And no change is permanent. With the passing of time, the space one class loved so much may again be theirs to use — all depending on the needs of the church as a whole.

For now though, change is maddening for some, exciting for others — but challenging for all. Don’t worry . . . those who are happy today will be unhappy at another time. That is, unless they truly begin to grasp a sense of God’s big picture and recognize that He’s much less concerned about chairs and coffee pots and paint colors — and much more concerned about the people who will come to know Him, in part, because of such resources.

I pray that God will help me to keep focused on the main thing. I pray the same for you — wherever you may serve.


2 responses to Trading spaces (church edition)


    You are in my prayers.
    Kay C.


    Real thought provoking! We THOUGHT that our Senior Adult class would be moved upstairs to a smaller room AFTER the new elevator was installed. We were READY, but the planners decided that we didn’t need to move.

    I think SOMETIMES moves are made “Obama-style”…just for the sake of change. I liked YOUR comment, “But I’m definitely not a person who makes changes for the sake of change alone. ”

    But, WHEN it accomplishes something positive, we certainly SHOULD welcome it!

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