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Part 2: 4 Tensions That Affect Design for Ministry

A look at growth vs. tradition. Does the tension between preserving the good stuff and inviting others into fellowship manifest itself in buildings?

By Ron Geyer   •  September 24, 2015 11:02 am EDT

Tags: architecture, building, collaboration, community, design, leadership, philosophy,

The people who walk forward at the end of each service couldn’t be more different. A couple retired from full time ministry, at least partly responsible for building the culture in a handful of congregations. A young girl who’s grown up here, accompanied by her Mom and David, active participants in the ministry that’s shaped her. A man who come from who-knows-where, but who carefully explored what we’re about before jumping in.

To each, our pastor makes the same radical statement: “We pray that God will be glorified by the ways this church changes you. And by the ways that you change us.”

In so doing, he’s acknowledging the fact that the people that become part of a church, whether they’re members or not, are not simply assimilated -- they are transformed. If they’re new believers, that transformation is largely indistinguishable from the work of the Holy Spirit. If they’re believers who are moving from another church, they will likely take up the language and the culture of their new church home, the good kind of jargon that marks a member of the family.

He’s also recognizing that new players can’t help but change the team.

That change can be a challenge to those who’ve worked to build a heritage worth joining. Tradition is a beautiful, critical thing. Protocols, habit, stories, and memories cloak communities in meaning. Space becomes “spiritual” only to the extent that it offers a framework on which to hang the memory of spiritual encounters. Cicero’s columns.

Enter the new guys. Even if all they do is split the oxygen one more way, they bring change. A new name on this list. A new recipe in the church cookbook. New ways of thinking, doing, and loving. Change. And in church, a pastor-client with 50 years of ministry under his belt observed, “Change is presumed negative and greeted with hostility.”

The tension between preserving the good stuff and inviting others into fellowship manifests itself in buildings. It’s difficult to make a facility bigger without increasing the distance to your car. It’s a challenge to increase seat count and maintain intimacy. It’s tough to project PowerPoint on stone walls. But it can be done, if that’s what’s called for.

If we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, more often than not, the new guys’ll keep showing up. And they, like [us], will change and be changed.

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