Do Ministry FROM the Church, Not Just IN the Church

WindowIf your church is blessed to own a building, everything you do with it – and especially outside of it – tells people something about your church’s priorities.

For example, last week I was at Starbucks with a church member when he introduced me to a friend. The friend asked me, “so what church do you pastor?”

Me: Cornerstone.

Him: Where is that?

Me: Just around the cor-

Random guy coming up behind him: The one with the skateboard ramps.

Yep, that happened.


Our Church Is Too Small

Why is our church known as the one with the skateboard ramps? Because ministering to the youth of our community is a high priority for us. There are a lot of skateboarders around us, but no other skateboard parks in town.

Your see, our church building is too small to hold all the ministry the Lord wants us to do.

Every church building is. But it’s especially true in churches with a small building. Or no building.

If you were to visit our church and sit in the last row, there would be no more than five rows ahead of you – with all the chairs set up. It’s a small room.

For years, I butted my head against a wall (sometimes literally – ouch!) trying to trying to get a bigger building for our church to worship in.

But we live in an expensive city. If we sold our current church property of less than one acre, we could get an easy $3 million for it. But it would cost us an extra $3 million to buy a property double this size, $6 million to triple our size. And we’d still have less than three acres. If we could find three acres – and that’s a big if.

So we started asking ourselves a few questions. If we could find such a facility and if our middle-class church of 200 could somehow raise the extra $6 million, would that be the best use of all that time, energy and money? We decided it would not be. 

That’s why, several years ago, we decided on a different path. We’re not going to limit our ministry to what we can do in our church building. Instead, we’re always looking for ministry to do from our church building.

To give you an idea what that means for us, here’s a short list of the ministries that our church is involved with outside the walls of our church building. And not just sending money, but actual, personal involvement of church members.

TGM box sale 250cAll from a church that averages about 200 in the building on Sunday mornings.

If that much ministry sounds intimidating to your Small Church, don’t let it overwhelm you. That list is the result of over a decade of work to get the church healthy, then another decade of intentional work to take the ministry outside the church, adding one ministry at a time.

Start with one. But, by all means, start.

The size of our church should never limit the impact of our church, especially outside the walls of our church.


Beyond Our Building Obsession

Your church may be in a position similar to ours. It may be easy to see why your church’s facilities (or complete lack of) are too small to do what God wants us to do.

But the truth is that any church building – no matter how massive it might be – is too small for the ministry God is calling his church to do.

Yet the church in many places remains building obsessed. For far too many people, including especially clergy, the church is the building – and the size of that building is tied too closely to our identity, our status and our self-worth. This is not healthy.

Doing ministry from the church helps break that unhealthy cycle because it reminds us that the people are the church, not the building.


Do More Outside Than Inside

If your church has a big building, thank God for it.

If your church has the means to expand its ministry by building a larger one, build it. But I think we need to assess the circumstances carefully before we pull the trigger on building bigger facilities just because we can. Here are some questions I would ask myself before doing what Jesus referred to as building bigger barns:

1) Can we do these new ministries without a building?

2) Will we really use the building? Not just on weekends, but many days a week for many forms of ministry.

3) Can we maintain the building, without costing us too much money?

4) Will we keep looking for ministry outside the building, instead of using the larger facility as an excuse to keep everything in-house?

When we only do ministry inside our church facilities, our ministry will always be very small, no matter how big the building is. When we start doing ministry from the church building, our ministry is limitless.

No matter how big (or small) our facilities might be, there should always be more ministry happening outside a church’s building than inside. It’s one of the best signs of a healthy church.


This is one of a series of posts about rethinking how we use our church facilities. Here are some previous ones:


So what do you think? What kinds of ministry could your church start doing outside the building?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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(Window photo from Christine und David Schmitt • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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