"From 1992 to 2002, investments in church facilities grew from $4.5 billion to $8.5 billion a year," says Ed Bahler, president of Aspen Group, a church and school design and construction company based in the Chicago area. "But 83 percent of U.S. churches are in decline."
With all this money being spent on new construction, why aren't attendance numbers keeping pace? Are churches being effective in their use of construction funds?
One of the most important concepts that emerges from the research is that every church has a "code," which ... "has to do with a church's history, its cultural makeup, its articulation of who we are, what we mean, and where we're going," [Bahler] says.
When churches embark on a building project without a clear understanding of their code, their approach is flawed from the beginning. Decisions are based on "accepted" ideas that might not fully apply to their unique situation. The result is almost always a disconnect between the church building and the church's ministries. Money spent on new construction is not as effective as it could have been, and much can be lost in the following years trying to fix the problems.
In other words, when a congregation does decides to build (which, some would say, is probably unnecessary in most situations), it should be approached as part of the TOTAL BRANDING STRATEGY of the organization.
Of course, that would require an actual branding strategy...something most congregations don't have to begin with. This is probably because it simply doesn't occur to us that such a thing is necessary.
But the times they are a-changin'... like it or not.
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