I recently traveled to England to work with Milton Keynes Christian Centre (MKCC) on a StratOp. MKCC is a growing church of 1,100 based in a fast growing city 50 miles north of London. The team is passionate about bringing people to Jesus and equipping them to be fully devoted followers of Christ.
They have a pretty unique approach to ministry and the use of their facilities that I wanted to share with pastors here in the US.
TONY: You have had several opportunities to visit the US and connect with churches on this side of “The Pond.” What are some of the unique challenges you see in the UK compared to US churches?
BILLY: The UK has a rich Christian heritage; however, with each year that heritage is fading from view and memory. Even the most optimistic of figures suggest that less than 10% of people attend church with any degree of regularity. The UK has also experienced a rise in immigration, and churches have to be much more culturally aware and inclusive moving forward.
The prevailing thought is that church is irrelevant for day-to-day life, holding outdated views on topics like sexuality. Recent studies have shown that new generations are becoming less and less aware of even the most famous characters from the Bible.
We see this as an opportunity. A recent study suggested that 56% of people in the UK would visit a church service if they were asked.
TONY: One unique aspect of MKCC is your facility — You use it almost every day of the week. Rick Warren recently shared, “I am absolutely opposed to building ANY size of facility that will only be used once or twice a week. It is poor stewardship of God’s money to build a facility just because the pastor wants to speak to everyone at one time.” Would you be willing to share how you’re leveraging your space beyond Sunday morning?
BILLY: Through God’s faithfulness and the generosity of our congregation, we have a facility that serves us well each Sunday — a 500-seat auditorium, space for children’s church, meeting rooms, a large atrium and a coffee shop which provides circulation space for our guests each Sunday. We don’t think God gave us this resource for Sundays alone. We maximize our resources to accomplish our vision but also to fund our vision.
We use our facilities for our Community Activities that meet people in our community at their point of need. These include a FoodBank, Budgeting Advice, Parents & Toddlers, Senior Citizen’s Groups and Young People’s Clubs.
In addition, we have looked to develop Income Streams, which are business ventures seeking to leverage the buildings God has given us to cover the cost of servicing and maintaining them. Our goal is that tithes and offerings should only be used for ministry and mission, not administration and maintenance.
These income streams include:
Strudwicks Coffee Shop: We serve great coffee on Sunday, so why not serve great coffee all week? The infrastructure is there: serving area, great seating, free Wi-Fi and even a small play area for children. It really is a no-brainer. Our church is now the hang out place for many that would have never visited it on a Sunday.
Tiny Steps Day Nursery: Each Sunday our venue provides a great place for children to have fun and discover more about Jesus. Monday to Friday, our Day Nursery utilizes that same space to provide high-quality, affordable childcare.
Conferences: We market our auditorium and various meeting rooms to our business community as a high quality venue for meetings, training days, business presentations, product launches or even exhibitions.
TONY: What practical advice would you have for churches who want to start leveraging their facilities in this way?
BILLY: A few thoughts…
- Spend time developing a business plan and strategy; then commit resources to it. Don’t play at it!
- Invest in great staff and leadership; don’t just add it to a ministry leader’s already full portfolio. It will just become a distraction.
- Understand there will be tension created by constant use of facilities, and work on planning and communication to minimize it.
- Realize with increased traffic will come increased maintenance costs.
- Never lose sight of the fact that the customers of your income streams–and even some of the staff, as not all come to our church–are your mission field.
This model pays for all administration costs and salaries including facilities (cleaning, repairs, maintenance, utilities), finance, IT and HR. In addition, it currently covers half our mortgage payments.
TONY: We recently facilitated a strategic planning retreat with your team. What are you most excited about coming out of that time together?
MARK: The most import thing we gained from the process was clarity of vision to cast to our church. It was also good to see the team wrestling with excitement while still feeling overwhelmed about where we feel God wants us to go. I am pleased that we have identified a list of key action initiatives and have prioritized the ones we need to work on to enable continued health and growth of our church.
The development of teams around tasks is a beneficial move that will help us to involve more staff and volunteers in the process.