My mom picked up a bunch of books at a library sale and passed some on to me. One of them is titled, 44 Ways to Increase Church Attendance. Lyle Schaller wrote this little book, so I figured I'd glance through it. It is a bit surprising that only one of the 44 ways to increase church attendance seems to have much to do with God. That way is to, "place greater weight on intercessory prayer." Apart from prayer, the rest of the ways all seem to assume that (a) the Sunday morning attendance is all that matters, and (b) an active church is responsible to get more people into the building. It would have been nice to have seen more dependence on the power of God.
One piece of advice was particularly relevant for our congregation- Cottrell Corners Community Church in Old Bridge, NJ. Included in the section dealing with the physical property and building of the church was this piece of advice:
"Perhaps 2 to 3 percent of all American Protestant congregations have the mixed blessing of an obsolete building on a desirable parcel of land of adequate size at a prize location. For them the most effective path to increasing worship attendance may be to raze that obsolete structure and replace it with a more attractive and functional meeting place."
I don't know where the 2 or 3 percent figure comes from, and it appears to be more of a guess than based on a detailed study. But the description of the property describes our church property quite well. We have four acres of ground in a nice community. We have great road frontage, on a road that runs past all of the main community buildings (library, police, etc.). But our actual building sits too far off of the road to be seen. The building does not have plumbing or classrooms. It does not have a kitchen or a fellowship hall. The building is quite small, and even when visitors park right next to it they are still not sure if they have arrived at a church. The building is certainly functional. We use it each week when we gather to worship. I don't know if a new building will increase attendance (again, I see that as a work of God who works through people), but I know that a new building certainly would be appreciated by everyone who currently meets in the old one.
Here is one other quote from the "real estate" section of this book:
". . . while a new building may not attract people, an unattractive or functionally obsolete structure often does repel people."
I am not willing to call our building "unattractive," but "functionally obsolete" is probably a good description for any modern building that lacks bathrooms and plumbing.
Let's remember that it is Christ who builds His church. And on a local level, let's remember to rely on Him and to use the resources that He provides in the best way that we are able to do so.