EVERY Monday morning several architectural drawings for new church buildings pass in review before the General Conference Blue Print Committee. Previous to this the plans have received careful scrutiny by some individual members of the committee, including a representative from the Ministerial Association. This leads me to make the following observations:
A major concern should be that the church plant be functional. This should be not only in terms of our regular services but as the work of the church relates to its task of soul winning. This requires the following:
1. An Adequate Foyer, or narthex. Every Seventh-day Adventist church should be used at times for evangelistic meetings. How wonderful if every church were open every Sunday night. But many churches have such small entries as to make the evangelistic program very difficult. The foyer should be spacious enough to make it possible to greet and visit with folks as they come in. In addition to this, it should be large enough to accommodate an extra table, bookcases for Bibles, or other articles useful in an evangelistic program. Frequently books are offered as awards to those faithful in attendance at meetings. There should be a space where these books can be properly displayed. Often the Gift Bible evangelistic program is used in conjunction with the meetings. There should be space to keep the Bibles and also a file for the Bible Speaks Study Guides that are given out each night. When the Bible Marking Plan is used there should also be a place where the Bibles can be kept. Unfortunately, many of the church foyers are so small as to make it almost impossible to provide such suitable arrangements.
2. Lay Activities Office. If a church is to engage in missionary effort it needs provision for the display and storage of literature, visual aids, and other soul-winning supplies. This calls for a lay activities office. The room need not be large, but it should be readily accessible to the narthex, or main entry, to the church. It may consist of a room with a counter opening to the narthex. Folding doors above the counter may be locked when not in use. The counter should be large enough to permit the display of such books, literature, or soul-winning supplies as need to be featured. Closet space below the counter will provide storage for missionary supplies. The wall space behind the counter lends itself to book shelves.
Seventh-day Adventists need to be encouraged to do more reading of our good books. Display of such books will increase their interest. Also there should be such books as lend themselves to missionary work. A lay activities lending library will prove useful. Have books that members can check out to lend to their friends and neighbors. This area may also provide space for the regular church library, and that of the MV Society. In addition to the lay activities office there should be space for an adequate literature rack, attractive in design.
3. Pastor's Study. There are a number of advantages to both pastor and congregation in having the pastor's study at the church rather than at his home. The exception would be when the church is very small and the pastor has several churches to serve.
The usual program for the minister is to spend the morning hours in study, correspondence, and administrative duties, and the afternoons in visitation. A few of the advantages of spending these hours at the church rather than at home are as follows:
a. Those seeking his help and counsel will normally look for him at the church. The unavailability of the pastor has meant the loss of many an important contact.
b. The congregation will be more inclined to feel that the pastor is on the job if he is at the church rather than at home. It will build confidence. By his observing regular hours they will know when he is available. These hours could be posted in the church bulletin.
c. The pastor is less likely to become involved in family distractions, particularly if there are children.
d. Making the church the center of activity all through the week will tend to enhance the importance of the church in the lives of its members.
e. It is easier to arrange for secretarial help in the preparation of the church bulletin, the church newsletter, correspondence, the preparation of materials, et cetera, when these activities center in the church and where adequate provision is made for them.
f. The pastor's study serves also as an ideal room for his Sabbath school class. This might well be a special pastor's Bible Class, particularly for nonmembers. With this arrangement reference books will be readily available for use as questions come up during the class discussions.
g. The church should be the center of soul-winning activity. The pastor's study, or church office, should have not only the membership files but prospect files, organizational materials, maps, et cetera. The missionary committee might best meet at the church, where these materials and basic needs for the soul-winning program are kept.
h. Indirectly, the foregoing arrangement will increase the total interest of the congregation in the work of the church, including such public evangelistic meetings as may be held. The church becomes much more than just a place for Sabbath services and prayer meetings. It is a center of activities all through the week.
These suggestions point out the need for a pastor's study of adequate size and also for an adjoining office and/or work room for additional help, usually of a voluntary nature. A new church sanctuary is usually constructed to accommodate a growing membership. The larger membership may envision the need for these facilities, whereas the current need may not require them.
A word should also be said about the location of the pastor's study. All too often it is in the back of the church off the rostrum, at a position inaccessible to the general public. Where the church is small, and the study is not used through the week, this is fine. But where the study is used during the week, this is a mistake. A special room near the rostrum in which the minister and elders meet before the service should be provided. However, the pastor's study is better near the main entrance to the church and as accessible as possible. This is especially important through the week, since strangers may enter seeking help. If there is an additional office or workroom, this should be in the same area.
4. Storage Facilities. How many churches there are that are literally cluttered up most of the time because there is no place to put supplies and other materials where they will be out of sight. It is not an uncommon sight to see boxes of books, Ingathering supplies and equipment, Sabbath school materials, maps, charts, offering envelopes, brochures, and what have you, piled under the back pews, or on the pews, in the pulpit, in the narthex, in the hall, and even in the rest-rooms! All because there was no provision made for the orderly storage of such things. The matter of adequate storage facilities should be given special attention.
Finally, may I emphasize again the importance of including in the plans for our churches those facilities that will enable the church membership to do the task assigned to it. This means much more than merely conducting services for our own edification. Rather, it calls for an active, aggressive soul-winning program, both public and personal. After multiplied thousands of dollars have been spent for the construction of a spacious sanctuary, it is certainly the part of wisdom to spend an extra few hundred or thousand, if need be, to assure that when all is completed the plant will lend itself effectively toward the accomplishment of the task for which it was erected.
O. M. B.