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7 Suggestions for Churches Meeting in a School

Over the years I have received lots of emails asking how we did certain things as a church meeting in a school. I am blessed to pastor a church now with an amazing facility, but my roots are deep in churches meeting in schools. It’s a unique ministry and opportunity. I usually figure that when several people are asking the same question that it represents a larger audience wanting to know the same answers.

Here are 7 suggestions for churches meeting in a school.

Most of these are more philosophy than actions, but with them as our paradigm it helps direct our actions.

Grow volunteers

Being in a borrowed facility forces the church to rely on lots of volunteer labor to set up and tear down each week. This can be stressful on people, but it also creates an opportunity to raise up new volunteer leadership. Our church would never happen without the countless hours of donated time, but in the process volunteers sharpened their leadership skills and realized the joy of investing in God’s Kingdom and seeing the results it brings.

Love the school

We supported the school we are in more than just on Sunday morning. We supported their activities, we attended their ballgames, and we tried to meet needs the school had as we were made aware of them.

Realize it’s not a rental situation

You may be paying rent, but more than renting a space you are borrowing a facility that has another intended purpose. We realized the school building’s primary purpose is to educate children during the week. We knew we were an added burden to the facility. We saw it as a win/win for our school, but we didn’t take it for granted we were secondary in importance at the school.

Be a blessing

At the end of our time in the school, whenever it may come, our goal was we would actually be missed by the school — and not just for the money we brought to the table. We had as a goal to be a blessing to the school. With this as a goal and mindset, it forced us to find ways to help the school outside of the money we paid for usage. We volunteered at their events. We helped with special projects. We allowed them to use our equipment at times.

Don’t interrupt school

We respected the facility as a place for education and we never tried to use our influence at the school to trump a school activity. We knew we were a secondary use and so we gladly bowed out if a school situation arose. Our school didn’t do much on Sundays, and if it did it would have created more problems, but the few times there was a Sunday conflict we tried to be accommodating to the school’s needs more than our own. We would rather be inconvenienced than for them to be because of us.

View your money as a contribution

It changed the perspective of our staff and key leaders when we saw our money going to make the education process better, not just as a rental line item on our income statement. Schools were always struggling to fund adequate resources and we believed our money helped. This made writing checks so much more pleasant!

Acknowledge critical players

The relationships you have with school officials is critical to making any agreement work. There are some people who make meeting in a school a positive or negative experience. This may include school district officials, the school administration, teachers, and custodians. We were especially sensitive to the teachers who teach in areas where we meet in the school, because we realized we were sharing space with them. Our experience was the custodian plays a large role in any churches success in the school, so we tried to respect and show appreciation to them.

Have you been a part of a church meeting in a school? What did you do to make the arrangement work?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Dave says:

    Our fellowship will soon begin meeting in the local elementary school. The school seems very welcoming and desirous of our being there. While I am sure the income they will receive is much needed, we also are thankful for the testimony of another church plant that met there for 6 years until just over a year ago. I have spoken with and thanked the pastor and congregation, that rather than making the school hesitant, they actually seem eager to have another church meet in the facility.

  • knoxredshield says:

    What a helpful and timely article. We @DiscoveryKnox just held our first service at Farragut High in West Knoxville. Our way was made smooth by the great testimony of another church plant that met there previously. Despite our careful efforts, however, it seems that we've already upset the drama teacher by not putting things back exactly as we found them. We'll follow your suggestions and see if we can't add a few others as we begin what we hope will be a mutually beneficial relationship.

  • John Ray says:

    Ron in your case and I know this is a case by case with schools, districts and region. How did you get the ball rolling with the possibility of meeting at the school? Did you contact the school's principal or the school district?

    • ronedmondson says:

      It does depend on the district. If I were advising you I would suggest you contact someone in the system, preferably in the school you want to be in and get the political understanding first. Let them help you navigate to the best people.

      BTW it usually boils down to money as the deciding factor. Email me if you need more help

  • Tim Biden says:

    Wow!!! I need to get this to the church operating in the auditorium of my wife's school.

    The church's behavior is atrocious and they constantly show contempt to the school by breaking or stealing audio equipment. There have been multiple meetings about the behavior but the church consistently does nothing to remedy the situation and the school administrators won't enforce any rules because they appreciate the money coming in. But then the equipment that has to be replaced comes out of the Art Department's paltry budget.

    It is a horrible situation where the church keeps pushing the envelope to see what they can get away with and administrators are afraid to push back for fear of losing the revenue. Even of only one of the parties would act in a Christ-like manner the situation could be resolved but, in its 3rd year, the church is just becoming more deplorable.

    • ronedmondson says:

      I hate to hear that. It ruins it for the rest of us. We've had to battle a few churches treating their schools poorly. This winter all school buildings were closed and we were forced to cancel churches. One particular church made an issue of it. We just understood and actually helped clean the school's parking lot.

  • Chris H says:

    We've met in the same school for at least the last 10 years. It's certainly a challenge setting up and taking down, the physical side of things and the need to get people who have a heart to serve in such a way. Often it's been myself and the pastor struggling to do that.

    Certainly you need to work to be a blessing to the school through relationship and service, you need to move beyond the business/rental side of things.

    An excellent article as well!

  • We have met in a school for 2 years now. I think the biggest obstacle was setting stuff up in the correct place. Once we figured that out it was cool. things like covering the basketball rims and scoreboard have helped. (as silly as that sounds)

    I think the biggest advantage is that setting up and tearing down has really developed a sense of community.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Yea, that took a while for our team too, but once we got their system and ours together it now takes very little time. Thanks!