Friday, May 01, 2015

Churches and Transition (3)

We have been discussing how churches can navigate through transition. One thing is for sure, change is inevitable. Particularly nowadays! Our culture seems to be changing at warp speed around us. Our churches are often caught off-guard with the rapid shifts in culture. Technology has certainly played a role in increasing the speed at which change occurs. 

To be clear -- just because our ministry setting seems to be in constant flux, that does not necessarily mean that churches should be trying to "keep up with the Jones'" so to speak. I am not advocating in these posts the idea that we should abandon our core convictions so that we might make the Gospel more palatable to our culture. What I AM saying -- is that we have to be willing to think critically about our church's strategy in proclaiming an unchanging message in the context of changing times.

With that said . . .



Churches that are flourishing today are churches that have taken the time to evaluate their unique area and setting for ministry and mission. So, begin with geographical considerations. Where is your church located? Is it urban, suburban or rural? What is the cultural setting around you? Why has God allowed your church to be located in that particular spot?

I realize some churches have chosen to be located in several geographical locations simultaneously. This phenomenon is known as the "multi-site" model. I am not a big proponent of this approach unless each site has its own pastor who preaches each Sunday and is incarnationally present with the people. Our church oversees about 350 different apartment churches across Arlington, but each one has its own indigenous leadership. (But this paragraph is actually for another topic -multi-site churches-and another future blog post!)

For example, our church is located adjacent to a major state university. University of Texas at Arlington has over 35,000 students. We literally share property together. In fact, it is difficult to determine when you leave its campus and join ours -- and vice versa. So, that particular location has caused us to make significant financial and ministry decisions because of our huge next-door neighbor.

What is the composition of your community? Blue collar? White collar? Ethnically diverse? Apartment complexes or homes? Socio-economic factors need to be explored. What makes these people tick? Is your community very connected to its public schools? What kind of entertainment is available in your community? Is the make-up primarily families or single adults?

What are the ministry opportunities in your community? What needs can you help to address? How can your church bless its community? Does your community need a clothes closet? A training center for adults who are changing vocations? A counseling center? An after school care program? A feeding center in the summer for children who are hungry? 

Also - look for ways to collaborate with others. What are the possibilities of cooperation and collaboration in your particular community? What kind of partnerships can you forge that will give you the chance to bless your community and be salt and light for the Gospel? Is there a local school you can adopt? Can you provide tutors for students? Can you host events for the neighborhood? Can you show drive in movies on the side of one of your buildings during the summer? Can you volunteer at sporting events or other types of entertainment in your community? How can you bless your city?

Our church is located in downtown Arlington.

We are right across the street from City Hall. A few years ago, our city asked us to consider engaging in a land swap that would allow for the construction of an outdoor concert venue that would be a great blessing to our community. We worked it out! We arrived at a deal that was beneficial to both the city and our church. We now have over 50 free concerts each year at the Levitt Pavilion that is located in our front yard! It has been a tremendous blessing for our church and for our city.

As a downtown church, we are a hosting church. We host events each week at our church because we located in the very center of Arlington. People can travel from across Arlington and conveniently arrive on our campus. Graduations, recitals, strategy meetings, Bible Study Fellowship, weddings, receptions, High School Choir performances -- we routinely host events like these all the time.

On the south side of our campus, we intersect directly with UT-Arlington. Recently the administration of the university decided to construct a new College Park Center -- which houses athletic events, music concerts and a host of other activities. In order to satisfy the parking demands of the new facility, the university asked us to consider allowing the construction of a parking garage on our campus. We would "lose" a parking lot but gain a 4-story parking garage that we can use daily and on Sundays.

We worked it out! We now have a parking garage located on our property that services our parking needs during the week and on Sunday mornings. For a downtown church, this is a huge blessing!

So - your church can evaluate your area. Find ways to partner and to minister. Hopefully, you will find favor with both God and man!