The McDonald's Method

I am not an interior designer—and, actually, I’m color blind. I should be at the bottom of the list of people to call when updating the look of your church building. But because I am artistic, and a pastor, I have been asked to help in updating all of the the churches I’ve pastored. I’ve learned a number of lessons along the way. Here are a few simple tips for how to create and execute your church’s new look.

The McDonald’s Method

There are primarily two questions most people ask when redesigning or updating a building.

  • When should we do it?
  • How should it look?

My answer to both of these questions lies in what I’ve dubbed the “McDonald’s Method.” The McDonald’s method is basically this: if McDonald’s has invested millions of dollars to figure out when is the right time to update the look of their buildings, then it is probably good to keep an eye on their timing and follow their lead in terms of design. Not everything will translate, of course. McDonald’s is a fast food joint, and you represent a church. But the updates that McDonald’s is spending millions of dollars to implement may give you insight into what you should be updating around your building.

McDonald’s recently built a brand new restaurant in my town. Their investment in building and promoting “the world’s newest McDonald’s” inspired our church to take stock of our own building. It didn’t take long for us to realize that our building looked like something straight out of the 1960’s—the last time any major updates were made. The colors were outdated, the carpet adhesive had stopped working, and parts of the building were not functioning well for us. McDonald’s was right. It was time for an update. But not because we felt the need to “keep up with Joneses.” We decided to update because we realized that the condition of our building had become a barrier between us and potential visitors, and that it was unintentionally communicating a message to our community that didn’t reflect who we were as a congregation. Having an outdated building can communicate a disconnect with culture, or worse, a lack of care. However, investment in upkeep and even renovation can show that you’re taking care of the resources God has provided you with. When you update, it should be with a focus on making your church more visitor friendly and more conducive to serving the community around you.

5 Keys to a Building Update

Once you’ve made the decision to give your building an update, there are five things to keep in mind.

1. Designate a couple people to make the decisions

A committee can often kill a redesign. Instead of a committee, designate a few people who can make specific changes and get the work done. If everyone has the option to offer their opinion, it will likely result in either indecision or conflict. Indecision can stall a project, leading to a half-finished job. Conflict, when addressed poorly, can disrupt congregational life and in a worst-case scenario, lead to leadership change.

2. Be you

Yes, that church down the street might look “cool,” but you need your building to accurately represent your church body, not just the latest design trends. If your church appears to be something it’s not, it can be just as distracting as being dated or unkept.

3. Update in phases

Most of the time, you can’t do everything at once. So, divide update projects into phases. This allows for some breathing room between phases and also draws out excitement. Updating in phases is also helpful to the budget and can allow for planning across multiple budget years.

4. Update, don’t change

This applies mainly to your branding elements, like your church’s logo. Resist the urge to completely redo your logo, unless it’s part of a much larger rebranding strategy. Instead, you can update or refresh the logo without a complete makeover. Look at the McDonalds “M” or the Starbucks mermaid. They’ve updated the design of their logos and buildings several times over the years, but have kept the same general look.

5. Share like crazy

Updating your building is a major event and a chance to share your big news with the community around you. Utilize social media to share the process: post sketch plans, record DIY instruction videos, post before and after pictures. This is a great way to build excitement for the change. Then, at the end, host a party to invite everyone to see the work.

When was the last time you updated your building? What lessons did you learn along the way?

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