From Living More with Less: 30th Anniversary Edition. Copyright 2010 by Herald Press, Scottdale, Pa. Used with permission.
Chapter 20: “Meetinghouses and Churches” by Darren Kropf
“We shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us.”–Winston Churchill
The majority of congregations in Canada and the United States need to look long and hard at the buildings constructed in the name of Christ. Do we incorporate the radical values of justice and peace as taught to us by Jesus? The second part of Churchill’s quote–“our buildings shape us”–reminds us that our natural and human-made environments affect us in deep and profound ways. Our meeting spaces are meant to foster the formation of the people of God. But what happens when the sacred relationship between the faith community and its Creator is compromised by poor stewardship choices?
With some creativity, the spaces we gather in to worship, disciple, and serve can deepen Christian discipleship. They can build up relationships and be a visible witness to the community in which they are situated. Not only that, but they can teach positive stewardship values to their members. Certainly a community that chooses not to build is walking the more-with-less talk, but simply using resources more efficiently can also make a huge difference. According to the Energy Star program, if all religious worship buildings in the United States cut energy use and costs by 25 percent, they would prevent five million tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere and save five hundred million (U.S.) dollars. Just think of the ministry opportunities that could happen with that money!
. . .
Reject the “if we build it they will come” approach. If you are thinking about building a new meetinghouse, design your building to be multipurpose and used by many groups throughout the week. Collaborate with community groups or social service agencies–before drawing up plans–to ensure your building will be used by more than just your own members. The last things most communities need are large church buildings with members spending hours brainstorming ways to get more people to come to it, rather than leveraging existing resources to meet human need.
Never stop praying and seeking God’s direction for responsible use of the church’s resources. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps 127:1).
One way or another, our meeting places will shape our community. Let’s be sure these spaces shape us into the community God calls us to be.