We’ve been a church for 4 1/2 years, and we’ve met in 3 locations. What’s interesting is that each of these locations came with their own set of unique challenges. While they frustrated me to no end at the time, I look back kind of fondly and think of all that God has done.
#1 – Church in a hotel – When we met in a hotel, there were only 2 meeting rooms so we put all the adults in one room and all the kids in the other. Think about that for a moment, Birth through 5th grade all together. Yes, this is my strategic mind working on all 8 cylinders. But there were people smoking in the lobby at times and those coming in for service would choke in the fumes. One upside was they already had free coffee there for everyone. So we split it 50/50. They did all the work, and we took all the credit for kindly providing freshly brewed coffee.
#2 – Church in a church – I think this was the hardest one of all. You can meet in any facility and people will be forgiving to a degree because they say, "Come on, it’s not a church building! It’s a Taco Bell. They’re doing the best they can!" But when you have church in a church, there’s no grace. The expectation is that this is our native environment and this is who we really are (Even if we didn’t pick out the wood pews or stained glass). So you kind of get labeled at times because of their facility and decor. We actually moved into their fellowship hall because it afforded us the ability to do what we wanted to do and get away from the "Gothic" look. There is an upside and a downside to meeting in a church. Upside: It’s a church and you’re dealing with Christians. Downside: It’s a church and you’re dealing with Christians.
#3 – Church in a movie theatre – People don’t believe me when I tell them this, but I had NEVER heard of a church meeting in a movie theatre until after we started meeting in one. I thought I was doing something totally revolutionary. Too bad I was a minute late and dollar short. But meeting in a theatre is great. My blogging buddy Gary Lamb has a great post about meeting in a theatre. But recently we experienced one of the drawbacks. The Summer is tough for movie theatre churches because all the summer blockbusters are coming out. So when Star Wars opened, the management came to us and asked if we could be done by 12:30. Our service normally runs from 10:00-11:15 and then people hang out for another hour, then we break down and everyone is usually out by 1:30 or 2:00PM. But that week we needed to cut things back a bit, so our service was about 1 hour and we were out by the time they asked. We have a great relationship with the theatre, so it wasn’t a problem. It just felt a little weird that Darth Vader was the reason we had to end church early. But that’s how the dark side works. I don’t believe young Anakin would have asked us to do that. Also, watch out for the titles of the movies showing. Our first Easter in the theatre, the movie showing was "The Panic Room" (Not inspiring confidence). Later that year, the movie showing was "Big, Fat Liar" (Now that’s just mean!). But I had to put my foot down when the new movie was "MTV’s Jack***". I can handle a lot, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
So here’s the moral of my story: You aren’t going to be there forever, so don’t freak out. People understand some things are out of your control. Yes, your feet are going to stick to the floor because of butttery popcorn. If you meet in a school gymnasium, one can of spray may not get the smell of feet and armpit out every week. But have fun with it. People won’t make a big deal out of it if you won’t. (Maybe about the smell) And if lives are being changed, people will sit on the floor to be part of what God is doing through your church!
So what are some of your unique challenges meeting in your rented facility? (I know some of this is going to be hilarious)