Were it not for the idea of the “Mobile Church,” the number of Christian congregations in the United States would be significantly diminished. I don’t know the current stats, but mobile churches are everywhere.
In small towns and large cities across the U.S., there are thousands of churches that rent local school facilities, hotels, YMCA facilities and even the worship facilities of other congregations during times other than Sunday mornings. Whole businesses and ministries have been started to help these congregations with their unique challenges.
For the entire 12 years that I pastored our former church, it was (and still is) a mobile church. We started in an elementary school cafeteria (six weeks), then moved to a high school cafeteria (six years), then we moved to the local YMCA (six years), and this summer we moved to another local elementary school which we LOVE!
Don’t get me wrong. There are some serious challenges and some scary things that mobile churches have to deal with, but that’s true for every expression of congregational life. Like all churches, we learn to deal with our unique challenges, and thrive on the benefits of using our particular approach to doing church the way we do it.
Below is a short list (though it could be longer) of some key benefits to being mobile. Feel free to add your own, or share your particular experiences or questions in the comment section below.
Benefit #1: Someone Else Is Paying the Mortgage
Most churches that have their own buildings and land have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions or tens of millions) to secure their land, develop it and build their buildings on it. The maintenance and utilities, not to mention the principle and interest payments on these facilities, causes lots of pastors to lose sleep, health and even their jobs when they can’t pay the bills.
It also forces many of them to constantly have to talk about money. Mobile churches spend money on facilities too, but by comparison, it is far less than congregations that are paying off church-owned properties. For the first six years of our church’s existence, we paid $500 a month to rent a very nice high school campus that already had all the space we needed. That leads to the second benefit.
Benefit #2: More Resources for Ministry
For many mobile churches, the majority of the budget can be used for actual ministry since it’s not being poured into maintaining a church facility. That includes adequate staff, resources, funding for special ministry projects and opportunities that many congregations simply can’t consider.
Benefit #3: More Room for Volunteerism
If you’re pastoring a mobile church, you know that it takes a lot more people to get things done. In the case of our church, about 70 percent of the congregation is involved in some kind of volunteer service based on gifts, abilities and needs. I met with another mobile church pastor this morning who shared that 90 percent of the adults in his congregation were volunteering in some way.
Our volunteer teams are a primary way that people learn to hang out together, work together and develop friendships that transcend church volunteerism. This benefit of mobility also gives people who would otherwise never serve (or be asked to serve) a chance to feel like a part of the family.
Benefit #4: The Church in Your House
If you don’t have a nice Christian education wing or access to a church facility mid-week, but you still want your people involved in community, there is only one solution; you have to open your homes. Mobile churches are typically better at mobilizing community groups (e.g., home groups/care groups, or whatever you call them at your church). For mobile churches, these groups are a matter of life or death. But they are also a huge benefit to congregations who are looking for relational discipleship.