Background Information for Congregational Conversations
The information below is intended to provide some background for our conversations exploring the possible expansion of our church facilities, both to make room for the growth we are experiencing, and to expand our capabilities for ministry in this place. Please read this over before you come to a conversation after church.
Congregational Survey Summary
Last summer the Long-Term Growth and Vitality Committee conducted a survey of the COS congregation. 84 persons responded. While the findings could not be labeled as “scientific,” they did indicate that concerns related to physical facility and space needs, including parking availability, were broadly shared by a significant majority. For example, 56 persons identified facility and space needs and adequate parking as a limiting factor to church growth. The next highest category was “media outreach” identified by 10 respondents. When asked, “If you could change one thing at COS that would contribute to church growth, what would it be?” facility improvements, parking availability, and physical aesthetics of the sanctuary led all other choices. In short, while a number of other items were mentioned—more effective congregational care, establishment of a second service, welcoming new members, emphasis on children & youth, continued strengthening of the music program, more effective community outreach, expansion of professional staff, and stronger financial support—issues related to physical expansion were predominant.
Background Information - Above 80% Attendance in 2017-2018
Most church literature indicates that when good seating in a worship space is 80% full, the space begins to feel intimidating to visitors and crowded to everyone. Currently, we are able to have 150-170 seats in the sanctuary (depending on how the seats are arranged). 80% of 150 seats is 120. Our average worship attendance has been running over that mark for a number of years now. Recently, for example:
- In 2017, average attendance for the whole year was 124
- for 10 months (not June & July) was 128
- 16/49 or 1/3 of the services (4 months) had greater than 130 (with 2.5 months of services greater than 140)
- In 2018, average attendance for the whole year was 126
- for 10 months (not June & July) was 127 (the average attendance June-July was 123)
- 16/48 or 1/3 of the services (4 months) had greater than 130 (with 2 months of services greater than 140)
When we rearrange the seating, with only two aisles instead of three, that increases the potential seating from 150 to 170 and the 80% mark from 120 to 136 which gives us a little more room to grow.
From the Pastor – Some Thoughts about Building Expansion at COS
The more I live with the idea of building expansion, the more I see ways that our building limits us – in size, in worship flexibility, in gathering space, in offering community space to others, and so on. Our current building will be 50 years old in a few years. It has been 15 years since we did a significant renovation of the main building. We have used and continue to use the building very fully. Just about every space available to us is in use every week. We are good stewards of our physical resources.
Sanctuary Space - The sanctuary was originally designed for flexibility – to allow different seating arrangements for different styles of worship – as well as easy set-up for potlucks and other meetings. The area under the balcony, near the angels, was sometimes used for choir seating or as a stage area when the 100 or so member congregation would turn to the side for special events.
The current 80% attendance mark for our space is around 120-135 depending on the seating arrangement. Our attendance has been exceeding the 80% mark of good seating for several years now. At this point, the number of chairs in the sanctuary maxes out the space and makes it challenging to rearrange things or vary the configuration of seating. Chairs often have to be removed to make room for coming to the altar for communion. Our worship area at the front is somewhat limited as well, without much floor space available beyond the raised area. In addition, for special services, we often place more chairs under the balcony than recommended by the fire marshal.
Gathering Space - Our current lobby space doubles or triples as a narthex/entry area, gathering space, display area, coffee/snack area, and storage space. It is often packed before and after worship. While this creates a sense of warmth and excitement, it could be off-putting to new people and literally makes it hard to get to display areas & sign-up sheets in the lobby, as well as through to the sanctuary at times.
Classrooms - All of our classrooms are currently in use, including both areas of Shalom House for Adult Study. Most of our classrooms are not accessible, however they do provide good classroom and choir room space with good natural lighting and so on.
All of this suggests addressing our building issues in some way. The purpose of these conversations is to invite broad participation in a listening process to help us discern the best path forward. In my experience, we are often unable to envision how things could be improved significantly. For example, the last major project led to a growth spurt & reshaped how we use our buildings & grounds in big ways.
This is a time for us to think faithfully and creatively about the future of our church, just as those who came before us did when they bought this property and built our current building in 1970-72. Any new vision for our buildings should reflect 1) our sense of ministry, values, and aesthetics; 2) new forms of worship, fellowship, and community ministry it may allow; and 3) concern for the long-term sustainability of our congregation - for the next 50 years!
I hope to see you at one of our conversations!
Your pastor, John