Creating environments that support ministry goals

This is part one of a three-part blog series focused around unique ways that worship facilities can work to attract new members.

If I can leave you with one idea, let it be this: The most successful church expansions are ones that support specific ministry goals.

Let’s look at two scenarios of worship facilities:

CHURCH #1 – The large church (typically more than 1,200 regular attendees)

A large church that finds their pews overcrowded on Sundays might feel the pressure to expand. At first they try offering multiple services because it’s an easy answer to their crowded halls and worship center. But what happens if you’re a church that’s already running multiple services and the building is full with various ministry programs throughout the week?

CHURCH #2 – The small church (typically less than 1,200 regular attendees)

A small church may also feel the pressure to build in hopes of growing the congregation. “If we only had a youth activity space or multi-purpose gym, we could do so much more!” is a sentiment we often hear from youth pastors or children’s ministry leaders. They believe that expansion will pull more people into the fold by offering additional and specialized services like additional youth group opportunities, child care, community areas and places to socialize. This church is currently offering two services every Sunday and is experiencing a full set of activities throughout the week.

Mount Hope church Youth Center
The Spyn Youth Center at Mount Hope Church provides a place for youth to gather and participate in activities.

Do either of these sound like you? Both the large and small church in these scenarios may think their next logical step is to expand. What is important to remember is that additional square footage does not necessarily mean more church members. My experience has shown me that the most successful church expansions have been focused around supporting a specific ministry goal.

What steps do both churches need to follow to determine if expansion is their next step?

The most successful church expansions are ones that support specific ministry goals.


The road to expansion can be long. The first steps you’ll need to take are identifying a ministry need, establishing specific ministry goals and then building a program around those goals. Rather than simply building a multipurpose space, a church should identify and quantify the need.

Let’s look at an example:

Step #1: Identify Ministry Need

Identifying a ministry needs means taking a look at your congregation and seeing what types of populations have an opportunity to grow within your church. Or, what types of groups should you be providing additional activities for? For example, let’s say your congregation has a number of young, active families. That population might be really interested and supportive of starting a sports ministry. This ministry would give them the opportunity to become more involved, to have their families become more involved and would be an opportunity for them to invite non-members to the church.

Appleton Alliance church Children's Library
Appleton Alliance Church’s youth library is a great place to promote reading and learning within the church.


Step #2: Establish Specific Ministry Goals

Your ministry goal is what you determine once a need has been established. This could be anything from introducing the church to 50 new families, to further engaging your existing members and thus embedding them further into the church.

Step #3: Build a Program around Your Goals

Starting a sports ministry can be as easy as hosting a 3 on 3 basketball tournament in the parking lot or youth camps throughout the summer. After your first summer, adjust ministry goals if necessary. If the new “sports ministry” still has enthusiasm and congregational support after a few successful summers, consider expanding its outreach goals. Maybe include stroller exercise days for new mom in the halls and narthex during the winter. As the ministry grows so will the awareness and sense of need for building expansion.

Appleton Alliance church gymnasium by Progressive AE
The gym at Appleton Alliance Church supports the ministry’s thriving youth sports programs.


The gym at Appleton Alliance Church supports the ministry’s thriving youth sports programs.

When it’s time for a new capital campaign, it will be clear how the space will be used and how it can support already active ministry. In this example, the campaign might support a gym to allow additional tournaments or activities. Because this new environment will come from a specific ministry goals and an active program, it will be more successful. “If we build it, they will come” is not the soundest strategy when it comes to church expansion. The best expansions come when creating an environment that supports and encourages established ministry goals.

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Adam Hopkins, AIA, is a registered architect and senior designer with Progressive AE. Adam has more than 18 years of experience bringing creative solutions to worship, healthcare and learning environments.