31 January 2011
9 Reasons We Are Taking Ministry Beyond the Building
A Little Coffee Leads to Big Change
About a year ago I started holding office hours in a local coffee shop.
Sometimes people came, sometimes they didn’t, but the experience opened our congregation up to a new way of thinking about our presence in the towns that surround our congregation.
As a result, we have now held events in four towns beyond Woburn.·I believe these too will become stepping stones to something more.
Here are nine reason that going beyond our building has worked for us and may work for you too:
It Honors Our Congregational Context
Although our church is located in Woburn, less than 25% of our members actually live in the city.· In fact, we draw from over 12 different towns across the Boston Metro area.·
For this reason, it has always been a struggle to get people to church during the week outside of Sunday morning.· Going beyond the building has raised involvement during the week - and because it is more authentic to our congregational context, this fairly significant shift has felt like a rather natural thing to do.
It Takes Vocation Seriously
Oftentimes, the geographic distance between church and home reinforces the sense that church is what we do there and life is what we do here.·We’ve tried focus on vocation and God in daily life as one way of overcoming that gap.·Vocation is a way Lutherans describe the sacredness of work, home and daily life.··
Taking our ministry to the towns where our members and their neighbors live, work, play, recharge takes it further.· God is in the neighborhood.
It Makes Us Known in our Communities
Getting out there lets people know we exist and are doing interesting things.· Even if its just the barrista, the bartender or someone’s neighbor who notices all the cars parked on the road, that is still more people than we would meet at church - and we don’t have to do anything but show up.
It Makes our Church Open to the Public
It has allowed us to have theological conversation, sing hymns, and pray right out in the open.· While these are things that usually terrify church folk (or at least Lutherans), this experience has made it fun.·
It is also a much easier way for someone to try out our church - or invite friends - than the Sunday morning service.· We’ve essentially created little church centers that people can easily plug into.
It Supports Our Community
All the locations we use are locally owned businesses.· In this way, we can support our local community - particularly important to do during tough economic times.
(It Includes the Internet)
Social networking provides another public space in which to do ministry - not to advertise - but to connect with people and share their joys and concerns.· We do this mostly through my Facebook profile and our church page, but also on Twitter.· Social media is the new town square.· You have got to be there.
It Provides The Space to Fit the Occasion
Church space is generally utilitarian and painfully familiar.· In moving out of the building, we are better able to match the size, location, and configuration of the space to meet our needs.·
In this process, I’ve become much more conscious of space.· A group of 12 people in a living room - or 20 people in a pub - feels far more vibrant than the same number of people rattling around in the church building.
It Gives Mission a Sense of Adventure
It’s hard to get congregations to move out into the community for mission.· This makes it interesting and fun when we meet in the hot new pub or the recently opened coffee shop.· People are excited about engaging in ministry beyond the building.
It Opens Us to Going Further
However, my hope is that these events will take us further and deeper into our communities - not just for fellowship, worship and education, but also working for social justice.· These can be stepping stones into something more - not just being around our neighbors, but loving and serving them in more challenging settings.