5 Storage Tips for Churches
When we work with churches to design ministry space, high on their wish list is storage—space to stow seasonal decorations, banners, candles, music equipment, Sunday school supplies, tables, chairs, and so on. These are legitimate storage needs. But many times adding more storage isn’t the right solution. There are high, hidden costs attached to it. Before increasing the amount of square footage devoted to storage, here are five key questions churches need to consider:
1. What should stay, what can go?
Before you make any decisions about the amount of storage space your church needs, get a dumpster. Yep, that’s right, a dumpster—maybe two. Go through all of the items you think you need to store and determine its real value to your ministry. Are there items you’ve had on hand for years and never used? Maybe it’s time to discard them, especially if they’re in disrepair. Ruthlessly purge anything that’s not used regularly. If you can’t bring yourself to throw things away, then plan a garage sale, or donate your used items to another church who may need them. Consider it good stewardship of your space.
2. What items do you need at your fingertips, and what can be stored out of reach?
Think about what you need to use daily or weekly. Resource rooms, education and admin wings should have a place for paper products, curriculum, and so on—the right amount of daily and weekly needs available and in close proximity to where they’re needed. In these cases, it may make sense to create built-in storage solutions in specific rooms. One church, however, has asked us to rip out their cabinets because they just harbor clutter. In-room storage must be thought through carefully so that it not only looks good but also functions effectively and doesn’t serve as a haven for clutter.
3. Which items need special treatment, and what can be stored without heating or cooling?
Most churches make the mistake of trying to store everything on-site, sacrificing valuable square footage for stuff instead of ministry space. On top of the high cost of prime real estate, churches end up heating and cooling anything that’s stored inside the church. Granted, some things are temperature-sensitive, and it’s critical to house them in a good, conditioned environment. But many things don’t need this type of care. Think through all of the things you’re trying to store, and then ask whether it’s something that could be stored in an outdoor shed, or an off-site storage. The cost per inch to store something off-site could be radically cheaper than the true cost of giving your stuff a fancy home in the church.
4. Have you looked up and down for creative solutions for on-site storage?
Many churches mistakenly think that all storage in the church needs to be on the floor. In fact, churches, which often have high ceilings, can make use of air space. Sometimes they can use under-stage space too. For instance, in high-volume buildings, you may have two stories of open space that abuts with a multipurpose room, the sanctuary, or backstage. You can sometimes use the second level for stage. We worked with a church that had a lift where they could stack and store their tables up high when they weren’t in use. They reserved their prime square footage for ministry, and used the open space for non-mission-critical storage. For under-storage, you can sometimes store things beneath stage platforms. You’ll want to be cautious about sprinklers and other easily damaged under-stage items, however.
5. Does everything need to be out of sight?
Storing tables and chairs is a big issue for churches. The dilemma is they’re not used every day or for every function. Our tendency is to want to stow them when not in use. But storing them isn’t always the wisest use of space. Chairs, for instance, can be stacked neatly along a wall, especially if they’re moved around frequently in the same room. Why build a separate space to store chairs behind closed doors, especially if the room the chairs are used in sits empty most of the week?
One church we worked with opted to create storage for the tables and chairs, but we finished the closet to the point where it could be used as a break-out room for small groups or as a classroom when the tables and chairs were pulled out of it. Instead of using their closet just for storage, it became usable ministry space.
When we design ministry space, we do so with an eye toward maximizing every square foot for the benefit of ministry. We think of ministry space as prime real estate. If the space isn't in alignment with ministry goals, then it may not be the best use of space.
Storage needs are legitimate and essential. But storage should be strategic and designed purposefully. For some churches, it feels like bad stewardship to throw things away. But often it’s worse stewardship to create storage to house stuff that may or may not be critical for the functioning of your ministry.
Whether you’re designing new space or making the most of the church you’re in, it’s a good idea to order a dumpster and take a fresh look at what you can keep and what you can toss at least once a year. And then think through what you have in storage. Does it need to be there, and if not there, then where?
What creative storage solutions has your church discovered?
About Greg Snider
Greg Snider joined Aspen Group, a design/build/furnish firm for churches, in 1999. Since that time, he has worked with a wide range of churches throughout the past two decades, including many large, innovative, multisite congregations. His mission is to help churches discover how to maximize their facilities and create space for ministry impact. He has written and presented on the power of connecting space, growth engines and barriers, and how to build churches for community impact.