When X’ers and Millennials Say No to the Building Campaign

Gen. X'ers and Millennials Balk at Building Bigger.

Gen. X’ers and Millennials Balk at Building Bigger.

I was having a great conversation yesterday with a 30-something pastor friend who serves on a megachurch staff.  His church is entering a 3 million dollar capital campaign to build additional meeting space for their church.  They hope to add a 500 seat chapel, a middle school area, and additional small group space.

The question we were discussing was whether or not building a bigger building, when the church already has a large facility, was good stewardship of financial resources.

While we could debate the price per square foot or the chosen capital campaign strategy, the bigger question was the moral imperative to build a bigger building for the affluent southwestern city-dwellers or give that money to build an orphanage in Ghana.  Actually the campaign amount could probably build and maintain 100+ orphanages in Africa.

Its seems to me that as the Builder Generation set the vision for a revitalized America after WWII, including suburban church growth, and the Baby Boomers inflated that vision with “mega” and “super-sized” versions of church buildings and campuses, Generation X and the Millennials are balking at the idea of building still more.

It is hard for the 20-something Millennial or 30-40 year old Gen. X’ers to invest these kinds of dollars into brick and mortar facilities.  If we are going to live radically simpler lives by choosing to reduce our own consumption and materialistic wants in order to give more time and money away to causes which defend the poor and needy and take the Gospel to the nations, then why is our church leaders asking us to build another monstrosity for our consumer pleasure?

The moral question of being a good steward and wisely use of God’s money makes building a 5 million dollar building for people who already have a building seem absolutely absurd.  When there are commercial buildings everywhere that are rent-ready.  There are schools districts looking to rent out their building on Sundays to generate revenue.  The Regal Cinema movie theater chain actually has an establish plan called “Theater Church” with numerous churches meeting in their theaters.

Dr. Thom Rainer has already predicted a trend toward smaller worship centers in the future.  He states that for the past 20 years he has seen Millennial Christians develop an “aversion to larger worship centers.”  He quotes one Millennial pastor as saying he hopes he never has to build a larger building.

In truthfulness, I feel the exact same way.  I hope I am never asked to sit on a building campaign committee or called upon to serve a church going through a building process.  While I know there are very good reasons to expand, I think there are numerous disadvantages.

And while growth demands expansion in all walks of life (e.g., cities, government, school districts, businesses, etc.), I believe there are lots of other options on the table before taking on millions of dollars of debt and asking your people to foot the bill.

Baby Boomers, I want to put you on alert.  Your building projects are not going to be funded by anyone under the age of 45.  If you and your Boomer friends feel called to build, go right ahead.  But don’t expect younger generations to contribute.  We just can’t stomach it morally.

It appears for the next 40 years or so the road to building bigger buildings is going to be closed for repair.

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About shanegarrison
I am a married, 30-something living in central KY. I serve as an associate professor of Educational Ministries at Campbellsville University.

4 Responses to When X’ers and Millennials Say No to the Building Campaign

  1. Jonathan Carl says:

    Well said Shane!

  2. adam russell says:

    you should preach this everywhere you go, seriously. one other reason to pump the brakes on sinking so much money in a building is that doing so could change the motivations for why things are done. for example, a church spends 3 mil on a building, and it’s ‘all god’, and then a few months after moving in the reality of a really big mortgage sets in. now what is most important? putting butts in the seats! of course having people at church is good and right, but ‘doing whatever it takes to get people to come so that we can pay our bank note’ is a disastrous core motivation. the pastor, elders, and board is essentially held hostage by the bank, making it much more difficult to respond to god. i wish this were a rare scenario, but it is actually all too common…

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