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  • Writer's pictureAlice J Stewart

How to Use What We Have: a free revenue idea

We have heard from others, and have perhaps heard from our own lips, that the Church is more than the building. It’s not a museum. Our focus is a spiritual community and profound worship, and a handful of other things not tied up with physical objects. 


Likewise, we have heard from others, and have felt in our own hearts, the sorrow at (potentially) losing adored items and buildings and fixtures so full of love and history and tradition - not to mention beauty created for the glory of God. 


I have a habit of coming at things from a different perspective to create win-win solutions. Really. It’s a gift. Here’s an example - free for you to try. 


What would happen if we turned our backs on the guilt and shame of behaving as if our church was a museum and approached the idea with open arms? What if we created “Museum Days” at our church?

First, let’s look at what a museum is. A museum is a place where items are arranged in such a way they are enjoyed, where the public is educated about places and objects they may never see or touch otherwise, and where heritage and tradition are explained and appreciated. 


A church building can be this place when not otherwise utilized. We already rent out our spaces, but we can leverage our spaces even further. 


We know that there is a growing percentage of the US and Canada who have never been inside a church. What if we can create a safe place for people to be introduced to this history and culture in an intriguing way? If churches are becoming a bit “exotic,” let’s use that to our advantage. People want to know about the exotic and will pay a price to get a look behind the curtain, learn something new, and not be asked to convert. 


I think we can develop this market for the good of our faith as well as the good of our bottom line. I think a customizable curriculum can be designed and shared denominationally as well as ecumenically, so no single congregation is on the hook for reinventing the wheel. 


Reframing the phrase, “The church is not a museum,” into “The church can function as a museum as well as a church,” is powerful. It alleviates guilt, leverages what we already have, and allows us to share what we know and own in a way that provides real value to others. 


And I don’t think this is sacrilegious or heretical in any way. I think the museum idea allows the Holy Spirit a way to do its work. So much of evangelism is just getting people in the door and letting them experience what we’re all about. We open the door. We show ourselves as who and what we are. We let God do the rest. 


What might this look like? 


Tour Ideas

  • stained glass and local history, 

  • pipe organs and the physics of sound,

  • building design and sacred architecture, 

  • vestments and fashion show (featuring clergy!) with explanations and history, 

  • the care and use of sacred items - show off the sacristy and the items used during liturgy, symbols and their meanings, 

  • a guided scavenger hunt - especially if there are fun “secret” passageways in the church

These can be stand-alone or tagged along with classroom and extra-curricular programming locally. But multiple programs will keep people coming back. 


Requirements

Museum Days require knowledgable tour guides, a way to accept payment, and perhaps a way to schedule tours. Holding regular tours during certain times is one way to go, or “by appointment” tours may work better for you. 


The museum idea is a low-overhead revenue-generation concept. And I would bet you anything that volunteers will be coming out your ears. Need help with these requirements? Just ask! I can help! 


Marketing

Advertise locally and more widely through Trip Advisor, Airbnb “experiences,” and anywhere else you can think of. 


Find out how much the local museum charges, and charge a bit less than that. Communicate clearly that there will be no evangelizing. Create a “behind the scenes” experience for those who might never cross the church doors. Be friendly, playful, and informative... and then step back. 

Zero-Sum Game

The museum concept is not a zero-sum game for churches. This is a way that all boats may rise. Every church has something unique about it. All may draw a crowd. Focus less on competition and more on differentiation. That’s the best way to win at any business. Yes, being the best is terrific. But it’s far better to be different. Focus on your niche. Focus on what makes your church unique. 


And when there is nothing that’s outstandingly unique? Share. Share in the Christian way among each other, building each other up. Ensure that museum programming is divided equitably among the churches in your local area - at least in your denomination. 

Pandemic Concerns

Keeping people safe is definitely something we want to do. But limited-sized tours could create an “exclusive” and more valuable experience for visitors. 


Share your experiences here when you get this rolling! We’re dying to hear how it works for you!

 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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