Open door policy ...
How comfortable do people from your local community feel just randomly popping into your church for an event or a service there—especially if they’ve never been through your doors before? Have you ever reached out to them or sought to somehow “advertise” your presence, your inclusiveness, and the use of your space for the local community?In WFM’s p. 20 feature (Spring 2013 issue), “Discovering New Urbanism,” by Cathy Hutchison, church leaders like David Fletcher of XPastor.org and worship space architectural designers such as Trung Doan of Studio Red Architects in Houston echo the question—how open are your church’s doors, both physically and metaphorically?Doan notes that many of the churches in downtown Houston are mainline churches with the luxury of urban locations. Yet, he reports, “We are seeing churches make changes to reach the younger demographics and also to touch the diversity of the community, but we haven’t seen much change in the buildings yet.” Churches see the need for this connection with the young families moving downtown, but they haven’t necessarily put form to their desire to connect.Fletcher, too, doesn’t necessarily report finding that churches are taking a more community-oriented and approachable form, but he does say that they are at least planting themselves where need resides. “If you look at where the new construction is going, it is not suburbia,” Fletcher notes. “When you invest in places of greater density, the opportunities are greater because there are more people. Consider the difference in 10 people per acre vs. 30…. But I think it is more than that. The values of the next generation are different from the ones that built the template we are using for ministry today.”My own church, His Hands in Woodstock, Ga., a suburb of metro Atlanta, was an adaptive reuse project—once a big-box retailer. It’s surrounded by other big-box retailers and strip malls, and it’s on the same corner where a county bus stop sits. In some ways, it looks more like a retail establishment than a place of worship. And aside from the bronze sculptures of Jesus positioned on the small grassy area before the entrance, you could drive by it and not realize it’s a church. However, the all-volunteer staff puts on barbeques, fireworks festivals on the Fourth, invites local bikers for a “Bless the Bikes” event, and sends its attendees (there are no “members” at His Hands) out into the streets on holidays with gifts for needy children and turkeys for families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.What is your church’s take on design for urban connection? Is it in your programming, your physical site, your architectural design, some combination of these—or in your overall approach to ministry? Share your thoughts with us below.
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