Megachurches: authorities curbing the giants’ growth?

bed too short for giant

Grey area

Religious usage of facilities approved for commercial use was a grey area. The previous guidelines were not clear. Can a church use a cinema hall? Or a hall in an office complex, hotel, industrial building or conference centre? No one knew. If no one complained, the authorities would let things be. The public concerns over recent megachurch plans have prompted the authorities to set guidelines. They have drawn a line in the sand. On the whole the clarity is to be welcomed, but it may affect the giants of the land: the highly visible megachurches.

New guidelines affect megachurches

One new guideline is: “Each religious organisation is limited to use up to 10,000 sqm in any commercial space at any one time”.  10,000 sqm is huge for a small or midsized church but likely a squeeze for megachurches wanting to expand further without increasing the number of worship services on offer. Doing an amateur calculation, if seating 1 person needs only 1 sqm, at least 10,000 should be able to have seating space. With seating for 5,000, the church will still have space leftover for other things like aisles, the  children’s church, reception area and other things. At least 3 churches will be taking out their calculators and talking with their architects.

Another guideline that puts a lid on growth is that it can only be used twice in the week. Saturday and Sunday services are what most megachurches in commercial facilities have presently. In other countries, some churches hold services almost every night because the weekend services have been already been maximized to meet the burgeoning congregation. This won’t be possible for the megachurches using commercial space.

Questionable motives?

It is doubtful that the authorities are trying to curb the growth of megachurches since the guidelines are quite generous. They say no religious group is being targetted but it was likely that the rise of the megachurches and their recent publicity raised issues that just demanded clarification. Whatever the case may be, churches are too resilient to be limited by physical space or guidelines. Especially with today’s technological advances.

Here is part of the guidelines but read the full online article in the straitstimes.com:

The guidelines, set by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and Urban Redevelopment Authority, allow some flexibility for the limited use of commercial premises for religious purposes, while ensuring that the main use of the building is not compromised.

‘Though religious activities are generally not allowed in commercial buildings, URA is prepared to exercise some flexibility and allow commercial premises to be used in a limited, non-exclusive way by religious groups,’ said joint news statement on Tuesday.

Some of the new rules set limits on how often regilious groups can use commercial spaces for their activities, and a cap for the space they can take up for religious activities in any commercial building at any one time.

For example, the maximum space within a commercial development that can be considered for religious use cannot exceed a total gross floor area of 20,000 sqm or 20 per cent of the total area of the development, which is lower.

Each religious organisation is limited to use up to 10,000 sqm in any commercial space at any one time.

The premises also cannot be owned by or exclusively leased to religious organisations.

Owners of convention centres must ensure that the reglious use does not compromise the staging for events during weekend, added the statement.

7 thoughts on “Megachurches: authorities curbing the giants’ growth?”

  1. “We” have a bad habit of dealing with things “after the fact” ie when questions or complaints arise, there are new guidelines/laws laid down.

    We are indeed an emerging nation, emerging culture/s, emerging churches, emerging thinkers to match the old guards’ way of thinking and doing.

    You are probably correct that this won’t affect resilient churches too much but this was the start of the Clampdown I saw the moment the announcement was made.

    Religious harmony is best maintained this way?

  2. Megachurches have a way of surviving, ie. going around restrictions, rather than working with the norm. I won’t be surprised if the next step (if it hasn’t happened here yet) includes “stay home, watch our service online, and send us lotsa money!” Then, there will be clampdown on internet broadcast… Sigh! The nature of megachurches seems tied to testing the line between social and anti-social, innovation and exploitation.

  3. 10,000 sq m is not generous because there are conditions of non dedicated use, and only twice a week. City Harvest and FCBC already hit the limit at Expo, and CHC have regular week day seminars

    The max of 20,000 sqm, 20% of gross floor area is very limiting. Expo may have already hit this limit. and even a small commercial space may be impacted by the 20% rule.

    The limits were probably set in relation to the Expo hall sizes (which are 10K sqm) which means that churches there can’t move to a bigger commercial place as they already reach the limit.

    It is not a clampdown but an effective freeze. eg can’t have more services on weekday and churches having the large halls can’t move to bigger halls > 10K sqm. Also Expo can no longer host additional churches as CHC and FCBC already take up max 20% space. They are stuck.

    Sadly, the greatest impact is the small churches using commercial space. … non dedicated rule & 20% max. space.

  4. Gentle Lamb,
    Get these church sucker from CHC , NCC and FCBC to fill up all the HDB Void deck in singapore, homes from people with AIDS,or share their stage during the forth coming ghost festival, i believed this is few ways of sharing and loving each other. Why keep everthing for themselves and kana check by people. STRESS! lor.

  5. Maybe its a chance for churches to practice warmer fellowship? For them to realise that growing big is not the only way to grow?

    Literally Millions have been spent by churches on land and buildings in Singapore. The same amount would have left christians in certain countries in total shock. At it immensity. “You mean so much has been spent on your buildings? Wow Wow Wow. The amount could have helped to start and sustain 2000 congregations here!”

    Not many churches are that rich. Those who have wisened up have turned to collaboration and sharing of resources. The People’s Bible church in Clementi did it with Mt Carmel BP. They share a common building. Mt Hermon BP did ot with Mt Hebron in CCK with 2 more other churches i think.

    Troublesome? uncomfortable? Sure. Of course one can imagine all the potential squabbles and confliict over facilities and rooms etc.

    But love is patient.

  6. As long as you do well and stand out, people will want to criticize you, dig out dirt about you and restrict your growth. One word–jealousy.Two–fear. Instead of criticizing, small churches should learn from the bigger churches why they are doing so well–getting more souls saved, seeing more miracles, sending out more missionaries, helping the poor more etc.

  7. There is no need to criticize one another. There will always a need for both mega and small churches. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Each can learn from each other.

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