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Big Boxes: Big Opportunities for growing churches

So what is a big box anyway?
Benefits for Churches
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Searching for the ideal way to expand a church's building size and outreach to the community will present many avenues, all of which might be viable options. Making the ideal decision, the one that satisfies all of the normal monetary, time, and other restrictions, while still proving to be the best investment is a large task. Renovation and addition to the existing building is often the first route considered, but the option to construct a new building at times may appear to be the only other possible solution. Another option has been created out of the growth of many communities, and may present a solution that is perfect for your situation. Moving a church into a “big box” might sound like a joke, but when you weigh all the options, it might just be the perfect fit for your church.

So What is a “Big Box” anyway?:  The image of cardboard rapidly deteriorating under a steady rainfall may be the first image that comes to mind, however, this term has been coined to describe the large structures built by major retailers. When a retailer like Wal-Mart or K-Mart needs room to grow, they will usually buy more land at a new location and build a larger building, while simply leaving the old building sitting empty for months or years until they can find someone who is not a direct competitor to sell it to. This situation has created an almost ideal option for churches to look into – perhaps the first alternative that should be considered. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of these buildings across the country, and it is likely that there is one somewhere in your community.

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Benefits for Churches:  There are many reasons why this setup might be perfect for your church, some of which will be in the following list. When given prayerful consideration, you may find other reasons the “big box” fix might prove to be anything but soggy for your church's specific needs.

  1. Location – These retailers often obtain the best possible location for visibility and access from major roads. This is ideal for a growing church, often putting you into a location that will allow many more people to see the church, and provide an almost instant increase in your sphere of influence.
  2. Size – The need for space is usually what drives a retailer to build a new building, but the space they leave behind is usually more than adequate for a church, allowing room for even more growth. These buildings are usually 80,000 to 100,000 square feet, and the possibilities for unique arrangement of offices, classrooms, a sanctuary, and other spaces are almost endless. This ensures that you get the right fit for your needs. This can also help your church avoid the decision of just how big a building you need to build, just leaving the planning for renovating the existing structure.
  3. Price - Because a church is not “selling” products or drawing customers away from the retailers, they will often sell these vacant properties at great prices to them. This is an ideal situation for a church that does not want to overspend, and yet still come up with the perfect solution for each of the other points in this list.
  4. Existing resources – Many things that a church might need are often already a part of these buildings. Wal-Mart stores that offer an automotive repair service would already have facilities that could be ready with little renovation for buses and vans. Parking lots that hold parking for 400 or more cars are often already present, as well as water and electricity, and many other resources that will save time and money for a church.
  5. Community Support – Many people in communities have been irritated with the seeming waste of leaving a large building standing empty, allowing crime or just deterioration to negate its value. This could be a way to show the immediate surroundings of the building that the church is helping restore life – a message that will be true on more than one level.
  6. Novelty Draw – If the structure is left similar in appearance to the way it was, it will often bring in the curious just to see how the building looks on the inside, presenting a chance for the church to reach them. Sometimes it is preferable to alter it to the point of not looking at all like it used to, and this can also serve as a draw to people who knew what the building used to be, or by those wishing to see if the building is really as different as an attendee might tell them.

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The “big box” might prove to be an intriguing choice for your church, and could prove to be the best decision you could make as a steward of God's money. An example of what can be done with a “big box” can be seen in the remodeling plans Dwight Brennfoerder designed and implemented for First Christian Church of Miami, Oklahoma while at Goodman’s. The linked projects page provides some information and a flyby video for a look at how big a transformation can take place. A great place to start might be checking http://www.wal-martrealty.com to see if they have a location near you. Other retailers might also have one, and simply looking around your community could reveal your church's next home. If you have questions about a big box, or any other building project, please contact us!

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Other articles with information may be obtained by clicking on the following links:

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