Fifteen Church Facility Issues

I know the church is not a building. That is not to say, though, that the building is unimportant. A building says something about the congregation that gathers there; so, we need to pay attention to our facilities.

Listed here are fifteen facility issues I and my consulting teams have seen recurrently in churches, including established churches and church plants.

  1. No obvious main entrance. We have seen this problem in churches with large facilities as well as church plants that meet in rented space. The building has several doors, each that enters the facility in a different location. Only one leads to the main entrance, but guests must guess which door that is.
  2. An unmarked (or unattended) welcome center. No signage indicates the welcome center, and no greeters direct people there. Brochures and sermon CDs might be available there, but sometimes no one is there to distribute them. Such a location is an information kiosk – not a welcome center.
  3. Paper signage. Even in larger churches we’ve seen it: handwritten (or even poorly done computer generated) room signs on a piece of paper taped to a wall. I realize emergency situations necessitate a “quick fix,” but this kind of signage implies a lack of attention to excellence.
  4. Old information on screens or bulletin boards. I’ve seen bulletin board announcements for events that took place six months ago. Even in churches with computerized announcements, I’ve seen outdated information flashed on the screen.
  5. Unsecured children’s area. Our “secret shoppers” often report having complete access to children’s areas. In some cases, no security system is in place to protect children. In other cases where security does exist, unmonitored outside doors still allow entrance to this area.
  6. Windowless doors in the children’s area. Windows in doors cannot eliminate the possibility of child abuse in a church, but they are at least a deterrent. Solid doors are an indication the church has not taken enough steps to protect their children.
  7. “Big people” furniture in children’s rooms. Perhaps you’ve seen a children’s room where the table is lowered a bit, but the chairs are still adult chairs. The furniture (and often, the teaching method in the class) say to a child, “Your job is to act and learn like an adult in this room.”
  8. Clutter. The list is long. Old literature on tables. “Donated” toys no one wants. Leftover craft supplies. Jesus pictures. Ugly upright pianos. Last week’s bulletins. Unwashed dishes. Drama costumes. Somehow the church facility has become a gathering place for junk.
  9. Open outlets in preschool rooms. A preschool room electrical outlet without a cover insert is an invitation to trouble. Toddlers typically have not learned not to stick something in the outlet.
  10. Dirty carpet. This one surprises me, simply because cleaning a carpet is not that difficult. It may cost a few dollars, but not cleaning the carpet says, “We’re not that concerned about the look of God’s house.”
  11. Odors. Again, the list is long. The musty smell of water damage. The hangover of dirty diapers in the nursery or spoiled food in the kitchen. An unfixed clogged toilet. What’s hard to believe is that people who attend regularly apparently do not notice the smells.
  12. Unstocked bathrooms. Sometimes I feel like I’m traveling on a mission trip when I enter a church restroom – that is, I’m out of luck if I didn’t bring my own toilet paper, soap, and towels. Those issues are only magnified when the bathroom is generally dirty.
  13. Poor lighting. Dimming the lighting might be an effective device to focus worship, but a service is hardly facilitated if members strain to read their Bibles. I’m especially sensitive to this one as I get older.
  14. Few garbage cans. Church buildings would be cleaner if our buildings included nicely designed, strategically placed garbage cans inside the building. There is a reason garbage cans in bathrooms and kitchens are often overflowing.
  15. Faded paint. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to a room. It’s also amazing how long some churches wait before adding that fresh coat.

What other facility issues have you seen?

photo credit: justshootingmemories via photopin cc


  • Ron Harvey says:

    Starting out in ministy I can remember church growth experts tell us that the 3 P’s to church growth were “good preaching, good preschool and good parking.” Un-kept parking lots is one I had to deal with when I was called here in Bakersfield. New slurry, new stripping, got rid of unkept weeds, and man did things look better. We have plenty of parking(that is what is meant by “good parking”) it just didn’t look appealing.

  • Chris Poirier says:

    I think, similarly to Ron, that the conditions of the exterior of a church says a lot about what takes place in side. Certainly I am not defending the position to, “judge a book by the cover,” however I think my point is more about stewardship in general. If I roll up into a church parking lot that looks unkempt, exterior needs repair, lights don’t function, etc I tend to question the priorities of the church and their abilities as stewards of God’s provision. We all should be applying our love of Christ to these issues just as we do to teaching, preaching, and the like. That said, for many churches money is an issue today and prioritization of funds is a reality. However, I think we can find many ways to address items that may show our love of Christ through our stewardship without breaking the bank. (i.e., Church Workdays, volunteers for upkeep, etc.) As much as many may want to point to lack of funds, we are still called to be good stewards of what God has provided us and our approach will define our witness as much as the condition of our churches.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Chris, you’re correct that money is often an issue. Those congregations that have a building, though, may find they can make improvements without spending a lot of dollars. Thanks for contributing to the post.

  • TJ Conwell says:

    Two others come to mind instantly:

    1. Torn (or missing) hymnals/chorus books. This one is easier than the thought it takes to put into how we should fix it.

    2. Un-mowed grass. Immediately says, “We don’t care about first impressions.”

    Great list for sure Chuck, and definitely something we can all be involved in fixing. It’s not just one or two people’s job to take care of the church. 🙂 Blessings!

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, T.J. Guess I’d forgotten the hymnal issue because we see so few churches that have a hymnal any more. Unmowed grass is a big one, especially since it’s so obvious.

  • lyston Peebles says:

    here are two
    1. There are too many church buildings! (250 Billion dollars worth in the USA)
    2. There are under used. vacant most of the time!

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I don’t disagree with you — especially about the vacancy issue. If a culture expects a church to have a building, we should at least use it to its fullest capacity.

      • Gay Jones says:

        Our building is rather large but sits empty most of the week. So sad.

        • David says:

          I’m surprised by this one; I’ve been a multi-church pastor in four locations across the UK and all the premises have been busy most days of the week, not just for church activities, but also for community groups – this helps address both the visibility issue and can help smaller churches address the financial challenge of keeping facilities in good order; that said one of the bigger, wealthier churches where I’ve ministered have done best financially out of this arrangement. Sadly, too many churches in this situation often fail in other areas mentioned in this thread – and inadequately address the missionary and evangelistic opportunities they offer.

  • Allen Smith says:

    Inadequate access for people with physical challenges. Our church facilities are such where there are places where one can go without needing to navigate stairs. Our education building is a split level, so when you enter you have to either go upstairs or downstairs. The main sanctuary building can be accessed without navigating stairs, but several of the Sunday School rooms in that building are located upstairs.

  • Russ says:

    Insufficient handicap parking.

    Unattended parking leading to double even triple parking close to covered entrance.

    Senior adults(50 plus) forced to meet in furthest distance from entry/sanctuary.

  • John says:

    An interesting article. You mentioned that some churches feel like you are on a mission field. I currently live in China now and attend the 1 public church in a city of 500,000. The building is designed for (American style) 250 people. Each Sunday, there are about 500-600 in it. It meets upstairs in their building. The seating is hard and uncomfortable and I have more leg room in the economy section of an airplane. There is parking for 10 cars and 30 – 50 bicycles and cycles.
    Since I began there, they have put up a sign on the gate leading in that tells what time the service is. Before, there were no signs at all.
    Since the service is entirely in Chinese, I don’t understand it. The pastor has asked for suggestions about what the church could do differently. I try not to make too many suggestions because I don’t want to be the “superior” westerner telling the “poor Chinese” how to do things.
    I’d be curious if you have any thoughts about what a church in China can do to expand it’s outreach.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, John. Many of the issues I raise in this post reflect a Western approach to church. If I were in China, I would work with the local leaders to see what is most appropriate in their context.

  • David Arthur says:

    Fake Wood Paneling! Ugh!

  • Jim Evans says:

    A big church facility issue is outdated “churchy” artifacts like bishop chairs on the platform and pews that are only found in the church environment and limit the usage capacity and flexibility for the largest square foot room on the property.

    Auditorium chairs can accommodate wheel chairs wherever the individual would like to sit rather than in the rear of the auditorium where a pew has been removed or in the isle. The same square footage can be used for training, small group clusters, fellowship meals, concerts and a host of other occasions other than the once a week worship service.

    An even greater challenge is that many church artifacts perpetuate the image of an institutional, centralized, out-of-touch, religious event rather than the gathering of redeemed, set-free, made alive Christ followers. It’s always interesting to see where the battle lines are drawn. Modifying church facilities and removing clutter (stuff we can’t throw away because of who gave it) seem to be among the top five areas of greatest resistance.

    Environment either contributes to or distracts from our intended mission or purpose. What I see says more than what I hear. Context trumps content every time.

  • Michael Grout says:

    I have found a few churches, mostly rural, that don’t post accurate service times. In particular, I recently visited two separate churches. The first one I missed the service all together because they had changed the start time for the summer. Their marquee didn’t reflect the change. The second church had a start time on the marquee, a different start time on their website (which had not been updated in two years), and then the actual start time in their bulletin. Both churches were pretty and well maintained by missing a key ingredient for visitors…

  • Jay says:

    Wow if this stunts growth we got ALOT of work to do……just dont tell those new Christians we have been leading to the Lord in the midst of our mess. I agree we need to do all to the glory of God and we need to give God our excellence, but there comes a fine line where if someone will not join your church because you “…have last weeks bulletin still out…” not sure I want to be in the same body as someone like that…a nit picker. BUT at the same time there are some that need to treat the house of God different than they treat their own…with a little respect and care for something that others have to share also. This one is a tough one but worthy of a read and prayerful consideration of areas for improvment and growth. Thom I read and appreciate your words of wisdom this is not a comment against just a note to say there is a fine line there that is hard to find. Thanks for the post and reminder, now I gotto go get next weeks bulletin done!

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Jay. We’re simply reporting what we’ve found, most often in churches that are not growing.

    • jonathon says:

      More than once, I’ve gone to the Sunday morning church service, and picked up the bulletin for the service the previous Sunday. Last week’s bulletins were on the usher’s table, intermixed with this week’s bulletin.
      Now imagine what a guest would think, if an usher gave them last week’s bulletin?

  • The Journey, in which I am involved, uses rented facilities–the Curris Center on the campus of Murray State University. The rooms and areas that we occupy on Sunday serve other uses during the week.

    We have flag banners, sandwich board signs, and greeters at the two entrances guests use to enter the building–the main entrance on the first floor and the side entrance on the second floor.

    We have a children’s ministry sign-in center and middle school ministry sign-in center on the first floor and a children’s ministry sign-in center and a welcome center on the third floor. Banners and portable signs clearly mark each center, which typically has at least two or more people in attendance.

    Sandwich board signs on the first and second floors direct guests to the atrium stairs and the main elevator.

    We do not use paper signs or bulletin boards. We do use computerized announcements on large flat screen TVs, which are kept up-to-date.

    We have security people at all entrances to the children’s areas and the one outside door, while unlocked in a case of a fire, is closely monitored. The doors in the children’s areas are glass or have windows in them.

    We have no clutter. We set up every Sunday morning and put out only what we need. Everything is else kept in its storage totes.

    We put cover inserts in the electrical outlets in the preschool rooms. We vacuum carpets if they need it.

    Guest services is responsible for ensuring that restrooms have toilet paper, liquid soap, and paper towel. Guest services puts out hand lotion and sanitary napkins in the women’s restrooms and mouthwash and breath mints in the men’s bathrooms.

    We have no control over the lighting in the lobbies, which could be brighter.

    Guest services also makes sure that there are no overflowing garbage cans in the bathrooms and other public areas.

    If a mobile church can give this much attention to rented facilities it uses once a week, a church that has its own building can do even more

  • Bob Brooke says:

    Mold in older church buildings, left untreated and noticed only slowly, can become toxic. The EPA can and will close public buildings with toxic mold.

  • Pete Ramirez says:

    Stained chairs or pews in the sanctuary. Also buildings with footprints on its exterior walls, waist down. Gum and candy on the floors. 🙁

  • I have been involved in six successful church plants (not counting the one my family attended when I was in elementary school.) All of these church plants took the trouble whatever the facilities they were using to create environments that would not be barriers to guests hearing the gospel and accepting Christ as their Savior and Lord.

    The facilities they used include private homes, a tennis club’s clubhouse, converted offices, a storefront, a school gymnasium, maritime museum conference rooms, fire station garage bay, and a cafe.

    A mother who has left her infant in a cluttered, dirty nursery staffed by teenagers is not going to be thinking about what the preacher is saying. She is going to be thinking about the health and safety of her child. The nursery and its attendants become a major distraction for her and consequently a barrier to hearing the gospel. She is also not likely to return.

    Creating attractive and safe environments can be viewed as a form of pre-evangelization. Even when the facilities a church plant is using limit what it can do, making an effort to create such environments conveys to guests that the church plant values them and their children. Setting out adequate signage and posting volunteers at strategic locations to help guests conveys to them that they are welcome. Taking these and other steps increases their receptivity to hearing the good news.

    Guests arrive at our doors on Sundays with different levels of needs. At the Journey we recognize that we may need to help them meet these needs first before we can meet their spiritual needs.

    One of our main ministry target groups are MSU students. The dining hall does not open until midday on Sunday. We provide a light breakfast for guests who have not had an opportunity to eat.

    Another one of our main target groups are young married couples with their first child. We provide a clean, well-equipped nursery staffed by adult volunteers and take parents’ cell phone numbers when we register their infant so we can call them if we need to. In this way we meet their security needs.

    I have personally functioned as a “mystery visitor,” sizing up a church from an outsider’s perspective for the pastor and all of the facility issues described in the article, I have observed in churches and church plants that were not growing. They had either plateaued or were in decline.

  • Kelli says:

    In a time where many churches have become ‘tech savvy’ by creating web pages, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts these too should be updated on a regular basis. Many folks looking for a new church home may go here to check out your church before they ever decide to walk through the doors-how many potential visitors have you lost by ignoring these resources? In addition you should’ t tout the podcasts that are not there or leave a ‘coming soon’ banner up for an extended amount of time. Coming soon means it is close to debut but if you haven’t even begun the process then lets quit the false advertising.

  • Doug Miller says:

    All of these are great. A new coat of paint can and does make a great deal of difference. However, I have seen where the wrong paint has been used and it looks just as bad as if the room had not been painted in several years. Using a dull color, or an “old” color, may be new, even look loads better than what it was before it got painted. But what does the color look like to someone who has never seen the room before? On block walls, semi-gloss, or at least egg-shell, should be used. Flat paint seems to accentuate the porousness of the blocks and still looks old even when fresh paint is on the walls.

  • A church whose worship services I occasionally attend, primarily to see how the tiny congregation is faring, repainted the exterior of their building. The building was originally painted white. It is now painted a dark shade of gray. Studies have shown that different colors can affect us psychologically: they can influence our mood. This particular shade of gray definitely does that. When the building was painted white, it looked bright and cheerful. Now it looks depressing, gloomy, even ominous. One has second thoughts about entering the building.

  • Lisa says:

    Sanctuary too warm. Especially with no air movement. Stuffy church makes it difficult to focus and can actually make some people naesous!

  • What I see most often in declining churches is inadequate and neglected nursery and preschool facilities. And these same churches wonder why they are not reaching young families. I think the neglected facilities often reveal an attitude that is the root problem, but I have also found that sometimes refreshing these facilities highlights the importance of that area and priorities and attitudes get adjusted as a result.

    Also, stained ceiling tiles. It is so easy to change out a ceiling tile (after your fix the leak). But churches take forever to get around to it!

  • Anthony Hernandez says:


    This article is SO helpful. Thank you for taking the time to put this out there. Currently, I’ve been tasked with navigating/leading/ensuring the overall quality and efficiency of our Sunday morning services, from Foyer to Green Room.

    If you have any other tips, articles, or prayers to offer, I’d appreciate it greatly.



  • The Pastor’s blog that has the latest entry over a year ago ;^)

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