Do Looks Really Matter?

Something about this election season that we are in brings to mind a well-worn phrase from Clinton’s 1992 campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid” and how it has become a snowclone for just about every position someone takes “above all else.”

In the conversation about MultiSite, especially in a portable church, the phrase morphs to become “it’s the environment, stupid,” because just like when you actually went to school in a High School, looks matter. Environmental transformation is a conduit for life transformation.

We all know, by now, that black curtains and padded chairs are not the saving work of Christ, although after a particularly long and repetitive worship set it might feel like it. However, those curtains and chairs can help people focus on what matters most in the few minutes that we might actually have their attention each week.

By taking the time to cover up the Homecoming ticket posters, anti-bullying awareness rhetoric and school mascot paintings, service attendees are less inclined to focus on where they are and are afforded a greater opportunity to discover why they are where they are. Spending a bit more economic and volunteer resources on chairs that are a bit more bulky when stacked in a trailer, is a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Here are 4 considerations in outfitting the environment of your portable church:

  • Facility – What is the operational nature of your venue? There is a big difference between meeting in a High School theater and a Middle School cafetorium. Meeting in a YMCA with mirrored walls can certainly play a role in your worship participation. Not all venues are created equal and one size of pipe and drape does not fit all. Planters and campus pastors should leverage the strengths of where they are and mitigate the weaknesses.
  • Durability. How long are you planning to be in this environment? Its always better to under decorate and gradually increase your environmental transformations than it is to spend a lot up front on equipment you will end up leaving on the trailer by month 3. If your stint in the school is going to be a few years, start slow and just get the essentials. Everybody knows it’s a school, you don’t have to hide every locker right away.
  • Flexibility. Can you reuse everything you use in another context? In today’s world, designing to fit one particular venue fails to take into account how fast and necessarily things can change. When your time in a portable context comes to an end, wise purchases can save you money in a permanent facility as well. Design environments to meet your current needs with an eye toward the future.
  • Visibility. What do you see when you look around? Play a little “I spy with outsider’s eyes” and look for those elements that will distract, detract or just generally kill the vibe. Thinking from a guest’s perspective forces you outside of the insider frame of reference and into the reality of your context. If you find yourself excusing something, then you should probably look at it again.

And for those who would write off the tremendous impact that context can play, remember the last time that you went out to eat at the dive with dirty floors, old “starving artist sale” paintings on the wall and horrible seating? Yeah, me neither… It’s the environment, stupid.

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