If you’re in a growing church, you’re facing an age-old challenge—a space crunch. So how can you uncrunch the space you have? Check out these ideas.
If you want to stretch the space you have:
Meet as a large group.
If you don’t have enough space for separate age groups to meet, combine age groups and meet in one large area.
Split your Sunday school.
If your church has more than one service, provide one session during each service.
Use dividers in your space.
Purchase or make room dividers. Delia Halverson of Florida uses refrigerator boxes, pianos, portable chalkboards and bookshelves to separate areas for several classes to meet in one classroom. You can also use balloons, parachutes, curtains, streamers or bedsheets hung from the ceiling.
Set up learning centers.
Ken Sears’ Minnesota church has one learning center with a tepee and an electric fire. Children rotate into this and other centers.
Make the most of large areas.
Use the gym, fellowship hall, kitchen or the janitor’s room for large-group crafts and games or for extra meeting space. Encourage adults to meet in the sanctuary to provide more classrooms for children.
Use small spaces creatively.
Let classes spill into your office, the hallways or under stairwells. And what about that musty storage room?
Capitalize on nearby space.
In Los Angeles, Janice Sakuma’s children’s program meets in a nearby park during the summer. They’ve also pitched a tent on their church parking lot. If you have a nearby school or warehouse, check into what it would cost to rent that space on Sunday mornings.
Meet in church members’ homes.
The New Testament church did it! And if you have church members’ homes near your church, you might be able to do it, too.
Put away tables and chairs and have children sit on the floor. Store toys and supplies in stacking containers. Add shelves on doors. Hang nets for balls or stuffed animals.
If you share space with a weekday program:
Determine who’s financially responsible for any broken materials ahead of time. Clearly communicate expectations and resolve conflicts immediately. Plan an informal time at least once a year for both staffs to meet together.
Respect the other group’s space.
To ward off problems, use bedsheets to cover room areas that are off-limits to your group. Use your own supplies and clean up afterward. Don’t forget to take the bedsheets with you!
Dan Morgan’s church in Texas has rented meeting space on Sundays for 13 years. They use plastic containers with lids to store and deliver materials for each class. They also transport 10 collapsible cribs for the nursery.
Building for Growth
If your church decides to build:
Don’t fence it in.
Build rooms with movable walls to maintain flexibility in room sizes.
Have multipurpose rooms.
One room in Delia Halverson’s church serves as her office during the week. On Sunday, folding doors shut off the office part and the rest of the room serves as the church nursery.
Build up space.
Most urban churches have no other option than to build up. So if you’re building, plan for growth. Delia’s church built an unfinished second floor on their building in anticipation of future growth. Delia says, “Even though it was a little more expensive, it will be less now than it would be later to add a second floor.”
Church architects suggest developing a 10-year and 20-year growth plan when building. Decide where you want the church to be in 20 years. Then plan for that growth.
Barbara Beach is a former editor of Children’s Ministry Magazine.
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