Making Property Serve Mission
by Fred Batterton,
reviewed by Suzanne Yanko
The author lays it on the line in his introduction. “My two passions are architecture and my Christian faith”, and the title clarifies which is the more important. Fred Batterton’s new book Making property serve mission, with the subheading “Rethinking the churches’ buildings for the 21st-century” is both liberating and confronting as a blueprint for change.
First establishing that property can “encourage meaningful relationships between people and with God” Batterton asserts that “mission is the reason that the Church’s property was provided by its predecessors and mission remains the core”. This book is more than philosophy. It is a handbook for any congregation open to the challenge of identifying its core mission and considering what buildings would best serve that, no matter what sentimental attachment there might be to the current arrangement of bricks and stones.
The first part of the book asks: “What is the church’s core business?” Of course, love of God and one’s neighbour, worship, teaching, discipleship. But what of a congregation’s particular local mission? Part two follows with the inevitable next question: “What property do you have?” But there needs to be a rigorous answer to this question including an honest evaluation of the use the property is put to. Hopefully it is not just “a religious club operating on a shoestring for the benefit of its members, locked up all week”.
Thanks to his architectural practice in the UK and in Australia, and his keen interest in solutions that others have found, in part three Batterton offers a wealth of case studies, and an engaging style of writing, remarkably free of jargon even in the more technical aspects of the book. His belief that “changes should be high quality examples of 21st-century architecture” should reassure the reader who fears that a beloved building might be replaced with something functional but dreary.
Words like “cost effective, sustainable, reinvigorating engagement,” even “good coffee”, now come into their own. This is not hype or spin. There are the usual concerns and others besides: everything from car parking to an entry and buildings that are welcoming to outsiders. Batterton has a thorough “how to” list: professionals who may be able to help, processes and plans. Above all a “re-purposive” that looks to the future with hope and confidence.
Strongly recommended, not just for decision-makers on committees but for any member of the congregation facing change.
Making Property Serve Mission is available in paperback and various e-book formats