I'm sort of piggybacking on this post about the huge buildings churches often build because I've been mentally processing what a church needs to be and what a church should be. Of course when I write "church" I'm talking about the congregation and not the building. This post at Pseudo-Polymath really got me thinking, (hat tip to Jollyblogger) and I'll likely address that issue soon enough. But for now, I'm going to concentrate on the physical facilities.
I realize there are plenty of churches in underdeveloped countries which use precious more than a grass hut with a thatched roof. I've heard from enough missionaries to know all about cement block rooms with tin roofs and makeshift facilities in abandoned buildings. But I'm thinking mostly of church buildings in this culture. That is, assuming a church wants to deal with a building. Many churches don't want to deal with the hassle of upkeep, opting instead to deal with the hassle of set-up and tear-down.
What are the minimums? Some kind of central room to gather in, such as a sanctuary, for one. Face it, if you don't have one of these there isn't much point to dealing with a building. The size of such a room obviously depends on the size of the congregtaion, but it's hard to imagine having too big of a room. Well, I'll take that back. A few dying churches have 20-30 people sitting in a huge sanctuary on Sunday morning. It's a shame that space can't be moved and rented.
Is there anything else which is manditory? Aside from restrooms and a nursery, that is. Yes, some kind of nursery is a definate. You don't want anybody changing a dirty diaper or tossing Cheerios around during a particularly riveting sermon. In many churches, some kind of kitchen is a must. I've already written about my church's relationship with food here. A church can do some wonderful things based around food. Of course, you also need somewhere to eat the food and that usually means some kind of dining room. Our church building is growing.
Now how about a few classrooms? If you use the traditional Sunday School model, then you need some classrooms or at least some good soundproof dividers to partition your dining room. Many churches are going to a small group format with no Sunday School, but there is still a need to have smaller rooms available for groups, boards, and other sets of people to meet in. Toss in a few classrooms.
A lobby? Or use the old churchy word "narthex." Ever want to confuse a visitor? Tell them to go to the narthex. They'll be running around with no clue what they'll find if they ever see a narthex! OK, there needs to be a little room, at least for an entryway to the sanctuary. We should probably add in some room for an office or two. However at my church I have no office on site -- it's all at my house. So I guess it's not that essential after all.
One thing my church lacks which we could really make use of is a space/room of some kind for the kids. Be it a gymnasium or an indoor play area, we could surely use an indestructable room. Let's call it the Rubber Room. That way when the kids are done with it, the parents can be sedated and placed there. The Rubber Room can be home base for all the youth activities. Is it necessary? Probably not. Although any good church shopper will check to see what you offer for kids, even if they've never even babysat for an evening. A Rubber Room is proof positive that a church is ready for growth, especially in the younger generation.
Beyond that, I can think of plenty of other things we could include in a church, but nothing that strikes me as essential equipment. Cafes, bookstores, workout rooms, and all the luxurious extras strike me as just that extra. (And a bit extravagant too.)
So to recap, in this culture a church building is expected to have a sanctuary and entryway, a kitchen/dining room, some classrooms, rest rooms (modern), a few classrooms and a nursery. A Rubber Room would be a good idea also, but not essential. Same for an office. Now I realize that there are some reading who are screaming, "What about the Prayer Room?" or "You forgot about the library!" Perhaps you consider them essential. Personally, I'm still thinking about axing the kitchen and dining room. We can eat anywhere right?
So what does all this say about us in this culture -- as people and as church members? Are we more worried about glorifying the church or the Creator? Should the visitor marvel at the sanctuary or the Savior? Are we building church structures with an eye on ministry or with an eye on opulence and comfort? Are we trying to impress God with a puny building made of ingredients He created out of nothing? Or are we trying to impress others outside of our church with "the way God is blessing" us?
I think we have much to repent of.