Portable Church: Advantages and Objections

A portable church has MANY advantages. I’ve been a part of portable churches for most of my ministry.

Currently about 40% of our church plants in Louisiana are portable. There’s no need to be afraid of going portable in church planting or other ministries. Here’s why:

1. Energy

Energy can be directed outside the walls, because the walls are not ours. In portable situations, the church is usually not responsible for cleaning, managing accounts, and making repairs. We’re able to direct the skills of the people more to the needs of the community.

2. Affordability

The costs of buildings are growing exponentially. In many, not all, communities being portable is better financially for new and transitioning churches. Often the cost of building straps congregations with debt and too small a seating capacity for maximizing growth.

3. Community Engagement

A LifeWay research study called The State of Church Planting showed that new churches that meet in public places experience 42%­49% greater attendance than others. Unchurched people are comfortable attending gatherings in theaters, gyms, banquet rooms, hotels. And the benefit to non­profit locations that churches can gather in is great.

Churches we’ve planted have met in an apartment complex office, a fire station, a YMCA, and a museum. Each greatly benefited from the income of our rent and our church came to see our being there as an investment in the community.

4. Culture

Portable church allows for the ministry to be built on what is most important, especially in critical early years. When you are portable, people attend church due to relationships and mission. The building and space are less likely to become “tails that wag the dog.”

Common Objections:

  • Isn’t that a lot of work? Yes. It takes work to set up every Sunday. But that work involves people rubbing shoulders and elbows together weekly. In my experience setting up church on Sundays brings people together.In my opinion, one of the reasons portable churches meeting in public places have 42%­49% greater attendance is because of the work that requires mobilizing people every weekend.Relationships + Responsibility = a Reason to Return. Churches with few mobilization opportunities limit their capacity for growth. Portable church set up expands mobilization potential.
  • Doesn’t a building signify that you’re a real church? Maybe so. But do you really want a building to define your church. Church should be defined by its disciples, their love for one another, and the church’s ministry in the community. Studies and my own experience show that a portable church can enhance these things.
  • Won’t people get burned out? People tend to get burned out in any situation. The work of the leader is to provide good systems, regular encouragement, and changes of pace to allow people to manage seasons of their lives.Portable churches can setup with great creativity and simplicity – limiting the workload, but still involving greater numbers of people in the ministry of the church.Now, churches do reach a critical mass in attendance and finances where ownership and construction may make better sense. And God often provides building at the right time for the growth of His church.

HOWEVER, there’s no need to be afraid of a portable church.

If you’re thinking about starting a church that may need to be portable or you’re thinking of staying portable, use these questions as a guide:

  • Can I find an affordable, portable space that will help me direct energy outside the walls?
  • Can I find an affordable, portable space that will help me with engaging community leaders & spheres of influence?
  • Will portable church help establish the culture & vision of this new church for this community?
  • Am I ready to establish teams & mobilize people?