Perhaps nothing challenges church leadership more than the use of their facilities, specifically knowing how, when, and where to allocate resources toward expansion. That is why I appreciate so greatly the ministry of my friend, Jim Rodgers. Jim is an “architectural pastor”, consulting churches on the use, expansion, and renovation of their facilities. He spent nearly 20 years in the pastorate and before that was a licensed architect. So he brings both practical and theological experience to bear on church facility usage.
Jim works for Church Building Consultants in Wheaton, IL, a firm that provides churches, Christian schools, and ministries the full spectrum of services to assess, initiate, plan, design, and construct ministry facilities. He is also a Visiting Professor in the DMin program at Grace Theological Seminary.
Jim has written articles for Leadership Journal, Your Church, Discipleship Journal, Preaching, Contemporary Drama Service, and Focus on the Family’s Pastor’s Family and is a regular teacher at pastoral conferences, seminaries, and ministry events. At the 2010 conference of the Evangelical Homiletics Society he presented a paper for peer review on: “The Heart of Worship and Facility Stewardship.” He regularly blogs on church health and facility stewardship here.
At Gages Lake Bible Church, we recently consulted Jim Rodgers about some potential projects with our church building. I thought it would be great to feature him on a Friday Five and expose more pastors and church leaders to the valuable service he provides:
You describe yourself as an “architectural pastor.” That’s a unique ministry. Can you explain what you do?
My wife and kids cringe when someone asks, “What does your father do?” No juicy expose here, but it’s not easy to explain and would often take several minutes. God’s allowed me to combine my backgrounds as an architect (4 years & bachelor’s degree) and a pastor (19 years and MDiv & DMin). Since 2007 I’ve served as an Architectural Pastor—which is a term I’ve coined. My mission statement is to: “Improve church health through facility stewardship.” God’s blessed this ministry niche as I teach at pastoral conferences and DMin programs while coming alongside pastors & church leaders regarding facility issues. If a church is looking to build and we’ve confirmed a healthy ministry infrastructure, then I also work with a network of gifted specialists in the whole arena of church architecture and construction.
Does your unique background as both a pastor and an architect give you a unique insight?
In defining my job title, I chose “Pastor” as the noun since that’s the driving role for my efforts. I consider myself as still functioning under the biblical responsibilities of pastoral accountability and the charges from my seminary training and ordination. When working with any pastor or church leader, I’m focused on the processes for improving the overall health of the church. “Architectural” is the adjective of my job title as it represents the unique perspective I can offer about the facility. Therefore, my mission to: Improve church health through facility stewardship.
It seems sort of “unspiritual” to think about improving the quality of a church building. How do you answer those objections?
The prophet Haggai didn’t think it’s unspiritual. In fact he viewed the ministry facility as intricately connected to the spiritual lives of individuals and the faith community. In October, 2010 I prepared a paper for the Evangelical Homiletics Society titled: “The Heart of Worship and Facility Stewardship: Haggai’s preaching theme—‘Give careful thought to your ways.’” That paper was well received and allowed me to develop a theology of Facility Stewardship. That calls for a definition—“Facility Stewardship is: driven by a biblical foundation, identifying facility issues that impact ministry and implementing corrections with leadership skills that improve overall church health.”
Are longtime church staff or leadership or members blind to some of the ways their building is communicating to the community?
In the Fall, 2009 issue of Leadership Journal I wrote an article titled: “Blind Spots: Why we sometimes can’t see problems with our facility.” Because we tend to think that facility issues are “unspiritual,” we tend to overlook problems with our church buildings—after all, we’re very blessed with our facilities in North American churches. However, our ministry “Jerusalem” has facility expectations that are shaped by our culture. And once we begin overlooking facility problems, they can get worse and begin a downward spiral. What we overlook, we learn to accept. What we accept, we become accustomed to. And what we become accustomed to we eventually become attached to and resist changing—even unclean or unsanitary conditions. I’ve got scores of examples of this downward process.
There is a growing movement in the Church against beautiful buildings and toward more spartan (and cost-saving) facilities. How would you answer this?
I challenge pastors to match their facility appearances with the DNA/Mission/Purpose/Values/Etc of their church. I also focus on the principle of comparable quality, which comes from Haggai 1:9, where God exhorts the people, “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” Like anything in life or ministry, it’s so easy to swing the pendulum too far in either direction.