The Power of Space: The Overlooked Influencer
May 26, 2014 | 1090 views | 0 0 comments | 1068 1068 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Power of Space: The Overlooked Influencer 
"Why is the early service so...what? Dull? Bland?" Pastor Jack was deep into his Monday morning debrief----a rehash of the weekend services. "The other two services on Sunday seem to be more alive...and that early service seems...I don't know, dead," he thought. "Maybe it's because it's early-and people aren't awake...."

This is not the first time Jack wondered about that early service. "You know," he thought further, "it's not that way for the Easter sunrise service----and that's really early." He began to think about the Saturday service: "That service on Saturday is a little better, but not much. I just wish I could put a little more life into Saturday and that early Sunday service."

Jack is not the issue. By now, you probably have already figured out that the two latter services on Sunday have more people. Guess what? That is not the issue either. Many small churches----some in store fronts----have exciting worship services with thirty to forty people.

The issue is space: how much of it is filled, and the influence generated by a "full house" or...empty seats----regardless of the size of the crowd, in numbers. This is just one of several issues of space. It is called the science of propinquity: the study of physical or psychological influence. Space is related to the influence of physical surroundings.

How much effort do you put into intentionally thinking about space when it comes to the effectiveness of your church? Think about Jack and that early service. He could hold that service in a smaller room, like the church's chapel. The result? More excitement, engagement, and yes, more impact for the Kingdom. Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings and then they shape us."
Worship and Space
Did you know that when your worship service is 80% full (on a regular basis), it gives the subtle communication to first time guests, "there is no room for me here"? That "80% rule" has been around a long time. But what about this? When the worship space is 20% full (80% empty) it has an equally debilitating subconscious impact on lifelong members. The subtle message is, "we worship in a sinking ship."
We work with many churches that have some issues among staff. They call us in to conduct a Staffing Consultation, which is preceded by every staff member taking spiritual gifts surveys and personality inventories. Those surveys are helpful. But what is not so clear to many is the influence of space.

"So, Pastor Russell, tell me about your office setup. Where are your staff located?" asked the Church Doctor during an interview.
First Impressions
"When does the service begin?" asked the first-time guest to the greeter at the door. The answer was, "at 10:00." It could have been: "When you entered the parking lot."

For guests and members alike, the space they occupy anywhere at church is influential. Do you have parking attendants, traffic directors, and greeters out where people park? If so, you are meeting people at the real "front door" of their journey to church----their journey into the presence of God at worship. 

Outbound Ministry
When we conduct a Diagnostic Consultation, our Church Doctors meet a cross section of the congregation in confidential interviews one on one. This comment is more common than you might think: "I'm not sure what our pastor does. He is never in his office, it seems. He keeps regular office hours, except for emergencies, of course. But he's not there, I guess, more than ten hours total in a week. The church I used to go to back home-that pastor was always in the office." Our Church Doctors listen and take notes, but we have a different worldview.
Ten Ways to Increase the Power of Space 
  1. Move staff closer together.
  2. Spatially connect ministries that cooperate.
  3. Reduce the gulf between the preacher and the congregation.
  4. Name your space with words that communicate.
  5. Recognize the power of first impressions.
  6. Think of your lobby like Starbucks.
  7. Impact newcomers: parking, reception, bathrooms, nursery.
  8. Focus on unspoken, visual messages in the worship space.
  9. Move, as much as possible, to a marketplace setting.
  10. The pastor's best ministry occurs out of the office.

Kent Hunter is founder of Church Doctor Ministries and the author of several books and numerous articles. Kent's passion is to help churches become more effective. This has led to the 

focused on spiritual health and vitality for congregations. He sees evidence of God moving in new ways and is encouraged about the future of the Christian movement in this generation. 
Hunter says he resonates with the words of Robert Frost: "I am not a teacher, but an awakener." 
Connect with Kent via email, Twitter, Facebook, or to schedule a phone appointment call 1.800.626.8515.
Church Doctor Ministries
 Mission: The transformational change of the Christian Church toward the effective implementation of the Lord's Great Commission to make disciples of all peoples.
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