Churches in Community

Under the menu item “Making Connections” the first link is The Place Solution. The mission of A Neighborhood Place is delineated there as well as this quote from Peter Block:

The key to creating or transforming community, then, is to see the power in the small but important elements of being with others.

Churches have created and continue to create safe spaces for people to be with each other in a faith community. For an organization that is built on shared values and beliefs, this is an easy thing to do. But as church membership has decreased there has been an increase in underused space within them.

Many churches offer their spaces for free to various self-help and twelve-step groups. This may be solution for the groups but are less viable for the churches which must support this extra use and concomitant costs. Some churches have had success renting their underused spaces, but this creates another layer of responsibilities for the congregation. Add to that the possibility of conflict between a renter unfamiliar with the local norms and the church staff and congregation and there is potential for an unhealthy atmosphere.

There is however a new model of co-using space and that is creating community space with the neighborhood that the church is within. This new model presents a particular challenge to a church and its congregation as it requires them to give up full control of their facility. And the process involves making personal contact with local community members to find out if they have interest in working with the church on the creation and management of that space.

There are myriad potential issues for all concerned. Church leadership is very fluid: a current leadership group may be eager and ready for this process, but will the next one be as open? The neighborhood may be wary of the church just trying a new way to proselytize, just looking for a way to put people in emptying pews.

The key is that the work is done with and not for the community. It requires that the invitation to conversation is without preconceived outcomes such as increased Sunday attendance or a budget rescue.

The video that follows is about the beginnings of such a project at a church in a Portland suburban community. Please watch and then contact A Neighborhood Place if you think you are ready to start a conversation.