A sanctuary is simply a holy place, a space set aside to encounter the Living God. If you are considering making a new sanctuary in an alternate space, here are a few things to consider.
1. Revisit the goal: The sign found in many churches say, “Enter to worship, Exit to serve.” Yet, if I may reframe this statement regarding the consideration of offering worship in an alternative space, it would read: “Enter to encounter God, Exit changed.” Remember, the goal is that people enter into a worship space to be changed by God’s working through the proclamation of the Word and moving of the Holy Spirit. Therefore in considering an alternate worship space, the primary question is, “Will this service bring about the change that only God provides as we encounter Him?”
2. Location: Where you worship is not as important as why, but it still requires discernment. It can be either downstairs in a fellowship hall, a local movie theater, or even a former department store/warehouse across town. All of these spaces will work. The key question is this, “Will this space foster an encounter with God?” Different spaces naturally allow for different expressions of worship; therefore, be thoughtful in exploring location.
3. The stirring of God: Look around at your congregation; listen to the conversations that are happening. Is God pushing on something new? The recent study by the General Board on markers of Vital Churches reveals that one common denominator is that vital churches offer both a traditional and contemporary service. From my experience here at First United Methodist and First Fire in Winchester, this holds true. Having two campuses, and three different types of services, has allowed us to reach a broader base of un/dechurched people.
Bottom line: Seek God and His timing when considering “making other sanctuaries.” And let us be found to be attentive, but not tentative to move. Furthermore, remember God’s word to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Rev. Kevin A. Parido is Pastoral Assistant at First Fire and Winchester FUMC.