A generation ago children were taught to revere church buildings as sacred spaces. Many parents admonished their kids, “Don’t run in church, this is God’s house.” Today church buildings are viewed more through the lens of usefulness than sacredness resulting in many congregations replacing pews with flexible seating or extending the narthex into the sanctuary to enhance hospitality. Most importantly, renewal congregations consider their buildings and grounds a community asset that can enhance life in the neighborhood. These congregations hope to find fresh ways to leave the building while, simultaneously, finding new ways to invite the community to enter the building. Whenever possible, the building is offered at low or no cost as a generous gift to near-neighbors. Communicating the building’s availability should be a central part of the church’s social media conversation.
Here are 7 ways churches can invite neighbors to use their buildings:
Use 1: As A Spiritual Space
Church buildings can serve as the community’s most important reflective space if congregations will leave sanctuaries unlocked and invite neighbors to enter for prayer and reflection. Additionally, church buildings should be available for weddings and funerals (hiring a congregational event coordinator to facilitate planning is a helpful investment).
Use 2: As a Large Group Gathering Space
The capacity of most church buildings to seat large gatherings (socially distanced if necessary) along with audio and visual technology makes church buildings ideal for community gatherings like piano recitals, school band or choir concerts, home owner’s association meetings, graduations and gatherings between civic boards and citizens.
Use 3: As A Recreational Space
Churches can use their grounds as a community recreational space (especially during COVID 19) by adding a playground, picnic area, basketball and volleyball courts or soccer fields. Additionally, many churches have small gyms that can be used for pick-up basketball or volleyball. Consider providing exercise classes for senior citizens.
Use 4: As a Community Service Space
Consider hosting a blood drive, serving as a polling location, hosting community health screenings or serving as a vaccination sight. Churches can also work with courts to provide mandatory parenting classes or make buildings available for recovery groups. Food pantries and care closets can also be housed in church buildings.
Use 5: As a Meet-Up Space
Providing a location where neighbors can meet-up is a wonderful way to extend hospitality. Meet-up space could look like a coffee shop or a play area where neighborhood moms can hang out with pre-school children. The church could also be a meet-up location for open houses and family gatherings.
Use 6: As a Day-Care Or Preschool Space
Many churches have found an important niche in neighborhood life by providing a high-quality daycare or preschool. A congregation can create their own or contract with an individual or organization looking for classrooms and outdoor play spaces. Be aware that high quality, safe childcare demands careful oversight.
Use 7: As an Educational Space
Consider providing high speed internet in the church building so students studying remotely can access reliable WIFI. Also consider partnering with local schools to serve as a location for distributing free meals when school is not in session. Churches can also host GED or English as a second language classes.
How has your church building served as a community asset? Consider sharing your story at shareyourexperiment.com.