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There are at least three major issues regarding setup:

1) the chairs: are they already fixed in seating, or do you have to set them up?
2) the sound system (and lighting, if you require that as well) will require quite a bit of adapting and mixing; and
3) children’s programs, including a portable nursery.  Plan on about 2 hours to “occupy” the building.

The “newness” wears out quickly with volunteers, who most likely are wearing other hats in a church plant situation.  Keeping a good rotation and an efficient packing system is critical.  Also, when people aren’t repsonsible on Sun am, it sets the whole thing back.

You have to “possess” the building by transforming it into your building for the time that you’re there.  You have to treat it as if it belongs to you.   Bring in plants, floral arrangements, banners, et al that have your name and phrases consistent with your worship celebration. Put professional signs everywhere, directing people as if you live in that building.  PS:  Don’t expect any help whatsoever from the custodial staff and you be frustrated with them.


In response to David’s questions on meeting in schools:  We started meeting September 13 in a Visitor’s Information Center. We are in an area with no other churches for 10 miles around. The only other building suitable for a church is a brand new school, and the principal has been reluctant to allow rental to any non-school groups. Therefore, if we want to be in this area, we need to make the Visitor Center building work for us as we continue to grow. That will probably mean two services quite soon.

Currently, most of our people are from a church background. Our core group followed the Pastor after he left the last church last May (another story).  We lost some people who were interested in the new church but wanted to meet in a church building, but we anticipated that. The new people we have reached a still mainly churched – but our first outreach push was just last Saturday.

Sound Crew starts setup at 7:30 so the Worship team can rehearse at 8:00.  Most of the other set-up is done between 8:00 and 9:00. We use 2 sections of pipe & drape to section off the large room for classes at 9:00 hour and move it to the front for a backdrop at 10:00. Between 10:00 and 10:30 is out fellowship reception, and we change the main room from classes to worship.

We were blessed in being able to negotiate some storage space on site.  Otherwise, set-up would probably take longer. Our sound system is 5 mics, 2 main speakers; 2 monitors, mixer rack and snake. If you can, get the mixer and all the amps, cassette, CD etc. racked together to save set-up time.  It’s heavier, but allows you to leave most stuff connected. We also have a video  projector, screen and computer that we set. We’re setting 100 chairs, 3 classroom areas, nursery, greeter’s table, reception table and signage (inside and outside). We purchased 16 of the 8-gallon size Rubbermaid Action Packer tubs for storage and transport of everything.

One pitfall we learned early on is that other groups using the building don’t always clean up properly. Since there is no custodian, we have to be prepared to transform the room from whatever event was in there Saturday night. The parties are supposed to leave the room clean, with all their stuff removed, but it doesn’t always happen.

Another pitfall is stuff being left out of the storage area. We have a person who inspects before we lock up to make sure everything got packed.

Make sure your set-up and teardown crews don’t get burned out. Honor the set-up ministry as an important part of the life of the church. Involve lots of people, so the same few aren’t at the building 5-6 hours each Sunday.

There some things that seem to help when you’re not meeting in a regular church building (and they don’t hurt even if you are in a church):

Go heavy on the signage. Signs on the street telling people who and where you are, parking lot signs and signs by the entrance; interior signs with classroom, restroom and other locations.

Have greeters in the parking lot and at the door to assist people. Give your set-up crew tools to minimize set-up time and avoid burnout.  Things like tubs with clear labeling. We bought a size that even kids can help carry. Using large tubs allows you to pack more in each tub, but then they are so heavy no one wants to carry them. If you need to move stuff out to a trailer etc., get some carts or hand trucks.

Look at ways to warm up the environment and mask distractions. We use the pipe and drape as room dividers and to help dress up the front of the worship area. Some churches use plants and banners.

Plan out your set-up. We put the nursery in the room with the most soundproofing. Classes for preschoolers are near the restrooms. We changed the normal orientation of the worship area so the bathrooms were at the back.


We have been meeting full-time in a local Elementary School since August. Our services last from 10-11:15 AM.  We rent the facilities from 8:30-12:30.

My set-up team (me and two other guys) show up at 8:30.  This gives us enough time to set up the sound system, Sunday school rooms etc. and for the praise team to practice before the service and then time for fellowship after service before we need to pack up.

The cost?  An outrageous $406 each and every Sunday!  Gratefully we receive outside support to help offset the costs.

There are some costs you will encur that I didn’t think about before getting in the school (if you are concerned about such things).  Such as plants and carpeting, etc. to make the “sanctuary” a little more appealing.

When you go to doing the services I would highly recommend getting a trailer to haul your stuff in.  We did the two minivan and a car routine for a while (from April to July we met at the school once a month) and it got old real quick.  The guys helping me said that they wanted the church to be a joy not a hassle and it was quickly becoming the later.

How do you deal with the oddness? Well our problem has been going from a warm and friendly home-based to church to a cold, bland, sterile school gymnasium.  We have fellowship afterwards with coffee and donuts and have paid alot of attention to the asthetics of our setup.  But, truthfully, it is still cold.  We simply supply the warmth through our home group Bible studies.

Finally, I suggest you personally meet and talk with the head janitor of the school.   He/She is the one who really calls the shots there- not the principal nor any of the teachers. Mine has told me that the teachers can request that we not use their rooms but he has the final say and the principal seems to do whatever he says as well.  We have built a great relationship with ours and he has been super- never rejecting a request and always offering more.

Oh yeah, one last thing- always be prepared for the day when the janitor oversleeps and doesn’t open the school for you!  THis happened to us not too long ago.  THe janitor simply forgot to come and we had to hold services outdoors in front of the school.


The biggest key in meeting at a school is the relationship with the school administration.   They can either make things great or miserable.

After some prayer, we have a new contact person at our school and it has changed everything.

In regards to setup–

I know several churches, including ourselves, who set up Friday nights.  Most schools have a custodial staff that puts in an 8 hour day after the students leave, which gives plenty of time to set up.

Have used several rented spaces over the years. The time varies with the facility nut is generally about 1 to 1.5 hours for set up and a little less for tear down. We have been able to obtain some permanent storage space at some of the locations. This really helps.

What are some pitfalls to watch for

Times of the year that the facility is not available.
Doors locked when you arrive.
Equipment missing that you expected would be there.
Complaints for the owners that you are makeing extra work for them.
Poor acoustics.

How you deal with the oddness of meeting in some place other than a regular church building

This one puzzles me. If you are trying to reach out to a world of people who are not used to gowing to church, you may very well find that a church building is detrement, especially if it is not up to date. I guess that I do not see how meeting in a school, theatre, community center, etc. is “odd” The traditional church building may be more odd to non-Christians.


For those that now meet in school auditoriums, can you tell:

a.) how long does it take for set up and take down We have been meeting for over two years in a HS cafeteria.  We have to bring everything to the school in a trailer for church.  It takes too long and is a lot of work.

b.) what are some pitfalls to watch for The number one pitfall is that it burns out people including and especially the planter and leaders. There is of course the fact that you have no place to hold outside meetings besides homes.  Which is fine for smaller groups,(in fact better), but not when you need a place for 50-200 people.

c.) how you deal with the oddness of meeting some place other than a regular church building

This has been a positive in many different ways from attracting people to setting the tone for a contemporary service.