So, your church is portable: every single week you set up and take down all the equipment needed for your worship service. How’s that working for you? A mobile church can really tax its human resources, but it can also mean that you are highly flexible and able to turn on a dime when it comes to connecting with your community. These are two sides of one coin. Let’s look at ways to leverage the good side, and minimize the not-so-good side.
The most important thing to remember about gearing up for mobile church is to focus on the ministry of the church. I’ve seen churches grow and thrive in rented, non-exclusive locations: some churches have met for years in public school auditoriums, movie theaters, and libraries—there’s no rule that says you have to secure your own dedicated space. Remember, even though the saying is old, it’s still true: the church is not the building, it’s the people. Consider these four important elements when it comes to mobile church, and the gear you need.
Four Elements Every Portable Church Needs
1). Storage of your gear matters. Either negotiate to keep your stuff on the site you use (that’s the best), or invest in an all-in-one trailer to store your gear safely (that’ll do). But whatever you do, keep your gear in one central location, and packed efficiently. Too many churches have their stuff scattered all over town, causing them to depend on multiple people to bring their gear and set it up. If you’re going to be a mobile church for the foreseeable future, buy a trailer—and trick it out to hold your gear in an organized and easily accessible way. Craftsmen have known this for years: an organized trailer makes life easier. Check out companies like Portable Church Industries (and others) for ideas and help.
2). Differentiate between what you need and what you want for your church set-up. You might be surprised: if your average Sunday attendance is below 100 people, who says you need to amplify your sound? Not every church needs to sound and look like a Taylor Swift concert. In fact, a laid-back, acoustic approach might actually provide an authentic vibe that many seekers would find attractive. Most musicians or preachers can cover a medium sized room without a sound system. And consider: if you opt for an unplugged approach to church, you’ve cut your set-up and takedown time dramatically.
I once attended a church of 45 people who met in a room that was less than 900 square feet, yet they insisted on a full band and sound system. The preacher held a microphone, even though everyone could hear him just fine without it! The total effect was, “we wanna be big-time, but we’re not there yet!” (Perhaps you want to archive or podcast your messages: fair enough. But one portable microphone and one reliable iPhone will do the job for many small churches.)
3). Gear up for what matters: and that means children’s church. Every church, big or small, must provide a safe, clean, and fun environment for children. And if you’re meeting in a public space like a theater of library, you need to supplement with children’s church gear. This “gear” might be surprising low-tech: baby gates for doorways, lots of plush toys for children, portable coolers for refreshments and clear up.
This is a sacred trust (take care of the little ones) and it’s a good church growth strategy. First-time visitors to any church—mobile or established—will always care about how children are treated. So here’s where to invest in gear: safety, security, digital check-in software (and printers) for children’s ministry, and first aid kits that are up-to-date and easily accessible. Start by visiting sites like KidCheck, and also consider throwing a children’s ministry “shower” to equip your children’s area.
4). Signage matters to mobile churches. I know: you’re thinking, this isn’t high tech. But it is the kind of tech that will make your church a welcoming place capable of sharing the Good News. Good signage is important outside and inside your church.
Outside: think through the gear you need to flag people down and bring them in. Even when families use Google Maps to find your location, they need confirmation they’ve arrived. This is one area where you don’t want to say, “A good church is hard to find.”
Inside: If you’re using a school building or library (or even a nightclub!) to host your Sunday worship experience, help people find their way through the building. Companies like Outreach, Inc. (parent company to churchplants.com) excel at helping churches with colorful, contemporary signs.
Two Final Questions
Finally, for mobile churches the most important thing to consider is sustainability and effectiveness. Sustainability should lead you to ask, “How can we set-up and takedown our gear quickly, week after week, in a way that doesn’t burn us out?” Effectiveness should lead you to ask, “What are the most basic needs, and how can we cover those needs with excellence and care?”