Church Buildings: Commercial or Residential

When looking for a house for your church in China to meet in, the first big choice you’ve got to wrestle with is what kind of a house you want to meet in. While it is still common for unregistered churches to meet in houses, more and more seem to be moving toward commercial spaces. We still rent both kinds, and I think there’s something to be said for both of these strategies…

Commercial locations are…

– Big

Most houses are divided up into a bunch of little rooms. Office space obviously tends to be more open.

– Convenient

Commercial locations are generally easier to find and invite people to come to. They’re also more likely to be on the ground floor.

– Private

Your neighbors are usually other businesses, who are not easily upset by the noise of a church service. Plus, services are usually not even during normal business hours.

Residential locations are…

– Cheap

And not just a little cheaper. But make sure you don’t just look at ‘square footage per dollar.’ Far more relevant is ‘seats per dollar.’

– Inconspicuous

Commercial locations are cop magnets. Small businesses are potential bribe-payers. Something to think about before disguising your church as a business.

– Neighborly

Meaning, they seem more community-oriented. Soon, the whole neighborhood should know that there’s a church in building X. Though many house churches have people come from all over the city, shouldn’t every church aspire to reach all the households in their immediate surroundings with the Gospel?

We are becoming increasingly committed to the residential model. Why? In a word, reproducibility. It’s honestly difficult for me to imagine starting many churches in commercial spaces. Not impossible, just seems less realistic than churches – at least in their infancy – meeting in rented homes. Of course, if a church grows and wants to rent in an office building, knock yourself out. Families with a lot of kids often buy generic – but when a kid grows up and moves out, if he wants Mountain Dew instead of ‘Hillbilly Holler’, that’s his own business!

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