Church Planting is hard work. Really hard work. Perhaps one of the of most tiring aspects of planting a church is the set up and tear down involved each week in having a rented worship space. It’s understandable then that many church planters are happy just to pull off a basic set up each week. Chairs, sound system, kids min, welcome table — done. What we at PlainJoe call Spatial Storytelling is often not on your radar when time is tight and volunteers are lacking. And yet, with a bit of planning and a small investment, you can really make a space your own. If you do this right, people might not even notice that you are a renter, not an owner. Here are five simple ideas that won’t break the bank:

Read more: Five Ways a Church Planter can Truly Own a Rented Space (without actually owning it)
  1. Get creative with your signage—Really think through your temp signage and if possible, cover up existing signage for the venue where you meet. The standard church planter signage involves a lot of sandwich board signs and teardrops blowing in the wind. They are cost effective and available everywhere. But you can be more creative.  Look for ways to cover up existing signage with banner type materials. If you have onsite storage, you have options for having nicer signs made that can easily hang over the venues signage. Perforated signs go great on chain link fences around public schools. Branded tents can double as a welcome space and signage, and they give you something to use at community events that you take part in. Car magnet signs can be cut in any shape and stuck on metal doors and window frames. And don’t let anyone get lost. Really think through the user journey from street to seat. Give them a clear directional sign right about the time that they are wondering where to turn next. 
  2. Consider the atmosphere you create— Owning your own building gives you options with furniture and decor that is harder to pull off in a set up/tear down situation. But don’t give up! Think through what 15 minutes of set up time could accomplish in the lobby at the welcome table or on a communion table at the front of the worship space. Give someone with a good sense of design that really gets your churches style a two-hundred dollar budget per qtr. and tell them to keep the look and feel fresh and consistent with the style of your church and the season you are in. Maybe that means you skip the stretch fabric table cloth with your churches name on it and go with an artsy look that might fit well in a trendy restaurant. If the same person does this job consistently, you’ll build up a bit of a library of tablecloths, candles, baskets, etc. that can be readily re-used over the years and also help with special events. Ask someone to build you a good rolling cabinet for storage and pad the inside to prevent glass things from breaking. 
  3. Stage design still matters in a temp space— Again, it’s easy to feel like just having a complete band is a big enough win in a church plant and that stage design is too hard to pull off each week. I’ve been there. I get it. But a creative thinker can figure out stage design that is easily set up and torn down. Work with what you’ve got. Are you in a school theatre environment? Utilize the stage rigging to do a cool floor to ceiling banner with some seasonal and on-brand colors. Get an AVL person to figure what could be done easily with gobo lights. Even old school candles can be cool if used well. Work with the building owners to come up with something that will benefit you both. People are going to stare at your stage for 60-90 minutes. It’s worth some thought. 
  4. Invest in the building— Sometimes you find yourself renting a less than great building that really needs some TLC, but the owner doesn’t want to make the investment, or can’t afford to. This is especially true when you are renting from an older dying church. You can offer to pay for some upgrades and along the way, you can guide the choices made. A new paint scheme and flooring can really help an old church lobby and doesn’t cost much. Fresh modern furniture from IKEA or Wayfair will really put it over the top (the trick is to make sure you get rid of the old stuff or it will find it’s way back into the lobby:) You might even be able to make a deal on the rent by covering the cost of these upgrades. Install flip frame sign holders with your images on the front and the building owners images on the back. It only takes a minute to flip them around after church. 
  5. Work with what you’ve got — The most important thing to keep in mind in all of this is to work with what you’ve got. Is there a giant horrible bulletin board right when you walk in the front door? Don’t set up pipe and drape. Get something on-brand printed on fabric that can be easily pinned over it all in 10 seconds. Customize signage and atmosphere to the building you are renting. Move ugly outdated furniture into an unused room to tell the right story. If you are doing an evening service, you have a lot of lighting options to to change the vibe. 

It takes some thought and a small investment, but it can be done even on a church planters budget and volunteer base. Don’t wait to get your own building before engaging in telling a connected story with everything you do. If your church is large enough to really think through branding and spatial needs, let’s grab a zoom call and see if it might be time to work with me at PlainJoe Studios! Email me HERE and mention this article.

Written by Phil Taylor
My name is Phil. I spent 20 years as an Executive Pastor and now I serve churches all over through consulting and coaching. I wrote "Defining The Executive Pastor Role" and "Eldership Development-From Application to Affirmation". My greatest passion is helping others bring vision into reality. I've been married for 25 years, and we have three kids and one grandchild.