You may not realise it, but your church building is a fantastic resource for communication! For a start, its mere presence in your community tells people that there is a group of Christians who worship there. Its architecture may communicate something of the majesty of God and (depending on the style) either something reassuring and traditional or modern and exciting. Of course, if your church building is crumbling, looks derelict, or looks dark, cold and uninviting, that will also communicate something – it may suggest that your church is unwelcoming, even if the reality is that your congregation is incredibly warm and friendly!
If you think the exterior of your building may be giving off the wrong message, there are a variety of ideas in the book that can help. One way to do it is to think about your entrance. Do you have one (or a series) of heavy, wooden doors that people have to negotiate before getting in? You’d be surprised how much of a ‘Keep Out’ message that communciates to those unused to coming to church. What about replacing them with glass doors, so people can see what’s happening inside?
Or how about replacing your entire entrance with an open, light, airy foyer that looks welcoming, as happened at St Judes Church, Southsea? Replacing what used to be stone walls and a locked door with large glass doors and windows facing onto a shopping precinct encouraged thousands of visitors to pop inside for a look.
And what about putting comfy seats, pot plants, a bookshop or even a coffee shop in that foyer? It’s no coincidence that many major firms use precisely these methods to make visitors feel welcome. It makes such a difference to have an entrance or foyer that has been expressly designed to welcome visitors, and some volunteers whose role it is to make those visitors feel welcome.
One thing that parents may pick up on immediately is how child-friendly your church is. Whether they visit during the week or for a Sunday service, if they see children’s work pinned to the wall, or a children’s corner at the back of church, they will know that your church welcomes children. At All Saints, Denmead, toys for children to play with during services are available at the back of church. This helps to demolish any preconception that children might not be welcome.
And when there is a special event going on that you want the whole world to know about, your church building can be a godsend. Why not use the fact that you have a 100ft spire or tower to your advantage by stringing up a banner that can easily be seen by those walking or driving past. Here’s one from St Mary’s, Hayling Island. The impact of seeing something different on your church building is immense – so it’s bound to have an effect, as long as you don’t do so every week of the year!