I’m blessed to serve in a church where the congregation sees its facilities as an opportunity for ministry. This outlook was expressed in the summary of our first Dawnings Process in 2015:
God calls us to be the Center of our Community; relating, loving, and engaging with our neighbors as followers of Christ who makes all things new.
Our community lacks a center, both in physical terms of a space for the community to gather for enrichment, and in spiritual terms of a focal point for connecting with God and God’s people. By being intentional in making God’s love visible to our diverse neighbors, and promoting and sharing the resources that we have been given, we make room for God to transform our congregation and community.
One of the Sunday classes is often called the “Community Room” but community use is not limited to that one space. Every building on campus has been opened at one time or another to Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, veterans, cheerleaders, sports teams, school tutoring and testing, speech therapy, community meetings and fundraisers, and huge weddings for the local Ukrainian population. Those are in addition to Childcare, Afterschool, and DayStay Adult Day Care.
Have there been hiccups along the way? Sure, but we have seen them as learning experiences rather than deal breakers.
We have learned to be very specific in communicating expectations, (see my E-ncourager article of August 15) and include those in our building use request form signed by the responsible person.
We have learned to leave space on the calendar, and in the parking lot, between major events so participants and staff can have time to clean and evaluate before another group or event sets up.
We have learned that having a single person to unlock and lock up, rather than widely distributing keys, makes everyone more secure. We are moving to programmable electronic locks for all our main doors.
We have learned that someone has to clean up when the cleaning up isn’t done, and worry about new “lessons learned” later.
We have learned to look for ways to say “yes” rather than starting with “no.”
I think that last lesson is the best when thinking about how we share the space we have been given, with a community that needs to feel loved and welcomed by God’s people.
These thoughts above are from Dr. Paul Raybon, our partner in ministry for Western North Carolina. He is an associate pastor at Hominy Baptist Church near Asheville, NC and works with churches and leaders in the Western Carolinas as a coach and consultant.