I’m on the Congregational Development Committee at our Local Governing Body. We had a meeting yesterday. I was tired, hungry, and crabby, which means I probably should have played hooky. But I didn’t. And so I subjected all of my colleagues to my irritable rants. (Do you ever have one of those days when you try, try, try to be the nice person that you are, and instead everything comes out of your mouth like a big confrontation? That’s what it felt like yesterday.)
Yet, I think my sleep-deprived frustration got me thinking a bit. Our main discussion centered around New Church Developments, which are a huge challenge in the DC region because of the cost of real estate. Which leaves us with the question, “Do we need the real estate to be church?”
Now, if you’ve read my book, or my site, you probably know that I have a huge passion for church buildings. I love sanctuaries. I love the immense stone ones with delicate stained glass. I love the white sanctuaries that remind me of the best parts of my Baptist roots. I love the simple glass ones that welcome the outdoors inside to worship with us, like a good Psalm does. I spent much of my childhood worshiping in a warehouse and a strip mall. I came out of it craving the ancient beauty of traditional worship spaces.
Does that mean I have something against warehouse, strip mall, or theater churches? Of course not. I simply still want traditional churches to be in the picture too. We’ve got a big job to do. We need both, and.
Which lead us back to the question, “Do we need the real estate to be the church?”
No. We don’t. Someone added, “What if we thought more in terms of relationship instead of real estate?” And when we began to crawl over that major obstacle, we were coming up with some amazing ideas. Ideas that continued after the meeting, in my office, in the parking lot, and (I hope) all the way home.
Jan’s on the committee (and how cool is that? Can you imagine working on church transformation with her? I’m so lucky), and she reminded us that the days of buying a block of land in a growing suburb, parachuting a pastor into it, and calling it a church are over. We need to think differently. Of course, “differently” certainly doesn’t mean that any of the following ideas are original, they were just getting us going. And so, we began to think:
What about a church in a strip mall, next to a coffeehouse? Or in a coffeehouse. We could lead discussions there. People could grab a coffee and go to church. (This is the kind of church I grew up in, and I had such bad experiences there…I couldn’t personally go this route, but you know, this is not about me…)
What about a church in a townhouse? I love this idea, especially in D.C. This could be an amazing space. I admire the pastor who can start a home church, but here again, I couldn’t personally pastor one. I like to go home at the end of the day. As in, away from the office. So, I think it would be ideal if the townhouse didn’t have to be the pastor’s house.
What about gutting a closed, traditional church? Take the pews out, and turn it into something completely different. We could get creative with the real estate. Sell off the Christian Education building and the pastor’s offices. Put the money into making the sanctuary fresh and amazing.
What about doing a service at an alternative time in an already existing church building?
And, my dream? My dream is that we go prefab. I would like to see our denomination, or a foundation, or someone hire a really amazing architect who could design an elegant prefab sanctuary that could be used all across the nation. It could be a simple design, with an emphasis on being green.
So what do you want to see? Imagine the possibilities….
the photo’s by Alificacion and it’s entitled “Church inside of a cave”