Fifty options for repurposing post-church church buildings

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Empty pews in a church in Kansas City, MO., show the trend in the the West away from religious identity. RNS Photo by Sally Morrow

Empty pews in a church in Kansas City, MO., show the trend in the the West away from religious identity. RNS Photo by Sally Morrow

(RNS) Congregations dwindle. Boilers break. Stained glass shatters. Does this sound like a church in your neighborhood? You’re not alone. Congregations across America are shutting their doors due to mergers and closures, graying tithes and delayed maintenance. But don’t fear, this means church buildings might actually be used by more than twenty people for one hour on Sunday morning. The closing of some doors means the opening of new ones. That’s good news.

Just look across the pond to the many wonderful uses of former church buildings in Europe, from hosting an international photojournalism contest to alternative music concerts. Instead of decrying perceived desecration, retrofitting buildings can mean much needed and welcomed revitalization. Here are fifty possible uses for church buildings post-church:

  • Contemporary art gallery
  • Indoor skateboard park
  • Luxury condos
  • Hookah bar
  • Laser Tag stadium
  • Single family home
  • Free community health clinic
  • Retirement community
  • Bar
  • Homeless shelter
  • Consulate for foreign government
  • Boutique hotel
  • Discreet office building for government surveillance agencies
  • Beekeeping facility
  • Indoor ski slope
  • Public library (a.k.a. internet cafe)
  • Outlet mall
  • Starbucks with drive-through
  • A nightclub named “Sin
  • Hair salon
  • Grocery store
  • Supercomputing center
  • Charter school
  • Museum for old church buildings
  • Indoor roller coaster
  • Experimental dance school
  • Amazon.com Locker
  • Automobile repair shop
  • Independent movie theater
  • Haunted house
  • Startup incubator
  • Car wash
  • Mosque, Synagogue, or Sikh gurudwara
  • Cowshed
  • Film and television soundstage
  • Giant ball pit
  • Racquetball court
  • Bring them Home to Homes” Veterans Housing
  • Spa and steam room
  • Bakery
  • Rock climbing gym
  • Subway station entrance
  • Bookstore
  • Recording studio
  • Funeral home
  • Tasting room at a winery
  • Improv comedy club
  • Yoga studio
  • Brewery
  • All-in-one Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC

Have more ideas? Send them to me at theliteralist.rns@gmail.com