A Pastor’s Perspective on the Mission of the Physical Plant

One of the most challenging moments for many a Buildings & Grounds or Master Plan Committee member is when they first see the Conditions Assessment Report for their beloved church facilities. The churches who commission such reports are typically those who have facilities that are 50 or more years old. In many cases, little has been done to keep their facilities up to date. Fifty years is a long time for a mechanical system. If it has survived this long, it would be foolish to expect it to last for another fifty years or even another ten. Roofs, walls, windows, floor coverings and all the other things that keep us dry and comfortable are often in need of repair or replacement by now. When it’s all written down and added up, it can be rather overwhelming. Some folks react with denial (Surely it’s not THAT bad!); others feel overwhelmed (There’s just too much to deal with!). But, eventually, most people come to accept that there is much work to be done and they start to figure out how to get it done.

Trinity Lutheran Worcester Tinted photoRegardless of the reactions of members of those committees or the church at large, good leadership is essential at a time like this. Some will want to focus all their attention on getting the church into tip-top shape while others will feel that their resources need to go to supporting their mission and are content with band-aid solutions. Like many things, this is not an either/or issue. It is a Yes/and issue. Yes, we have much work ahead of us to make sure that our facilities continue to serve as intended. And Yes, our mission work is essential to who we are as church. The true solution lies in finding the way to make those two goals work together.

I recently received a copy of an article written by Susan K. Nachtigal, Lead Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester, MA. Their church is getting ready to face exactly these issues based on a Master Plan that we recently prepared for them. Trinity Lutheran’s facilities are over sixty years old and, like most facilities that age, need some work. While fully aware of that need, Pastor Nachtigal clearly understands the role that the church members must play and the role that God will play in the process. Please take a few moments to read her article, entitled “God Who Has Begun a Good Work in You“. I also invite you to share your feelings as a member or leader of a church who has either been there, is there or will find themselves there some day in the future.

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