About 30 years ago, lots of churches bought into the myth that building a gym was the answer to all their outreach woes. Churches thought “build it and they will come” long before Ray Kinsella made it popular in Field of Dreams. But in real life, somebody has to be there to run the place after you build it so they can come. And before they come, somebody has to program the use of the building. Getting both people and programs in place as we opened the community center has taken countless hours of my time, not to mention all the other folks involved.
Buildings are not the answer to any church’s problems, outreach or otherwise. Buildings add to the complexity of church ministry because you need people and programs to fill them. So, before you “build it” hoping “they will come” start some programs right now. When we dreamed of building a community center, we started the Boys and Girls Club program first in the space we had, with a staff of 2 people. Having that program established before we built and opened the community center guaranteed us an anchor program, complete with staff. Currently the program serves about 80 kids a day with a paid staff of 5, plus additional community center staff of 3. We also use volunteers, but we do not rely on volunteers for critical functions. Volunteers supplement on-going programs, and relieve staff to focus on essential responsibilities.
Next myth to be busted: “Don’t worry, the building will pay for itself.”