Classrooms are filled with preschool kids.
Rooms are filled with people from the neighborhood.
The halls are filled with multiple languages.
Couples are meeting for professional counseling.
The parking lot is filled with cars.
All the lights are on all the time!
At Storehouse Church, this is what every week looks like as our building is filled with people, even when it has nothing to do with our direct church ministry.
From 2001-2013 we were a “church in a box,” meeting in a middle school. When the opportunity came for us to have a building, we desperately wanted to be sure that this valuable resource didn’t sit empty from Monday through Saturday.
For many churches, that is also a desire, but the reality can be difficult. How do you really share space? How do you prioritize? Who makes these decisions? It was important for us to establish best practices that would benefit all the various groups using our facility. Our building is home to a weekday preschool, a Spanish church, Cub scouts, Boy scouts, Girl scouts, a Celebrate Recovery group, a community baseball league, a professional counselor AND all of our in-house ministries!
The point is this: if we want to be for our neighbors, we must consider leveraging our facilities to benefit those neighbors. Here are some simple steps you can take to get started.
Alter the Focus
When people use your space, messes happen. Toys get misplaced. Things may be left behind and everything gets dirty faster. These can be annoyances for sure. But, they are also reminders that your space is being used! It’s all about perspective. Your staff needs to be on board. People take their cues from the top. If we are for our neighbors, we’re okay with touching up paint or replacing carpets a little more often.
Determine Your Guidelines
Will you charge? Maybe a cleaning fee? Does a staff or church member need to be present? Will church events have priority? If you want some examples of our guidelines, contact me. (Note: It’s important to understand the financial and legal ramifications if you choose to charge rent for your space. Check with your legal representation, local municipalities and denomination/parent organization before entering into financial agreements with outside groups.)
Invite People Into Your Space
Let your members know the church is open! People are often part of various community organizations and many are looking for spaces to hold meetings or events. Seek out your local scout troops, business associations and para-church organizations. They may have a space already, but perhaps your facility could serve as an event location. Even if people don’t need a place to meet, they’ll remember you as an organization who is ready to serve the community with your facility.
Work With Other Churches
Remember, we are in this together! Organize a prayer time for local pastors. This can serve several purposes: you get to pray with other leaders in your community; your church is seen as open and accessible; you can learn about real needs (maybe another church is in need of a building to use at times when you don’t use your facility?); and you lead the way in being good stewards of all that God entrusted to your church family—even the building!
Think Outside the . . . Walls
What does your community really need? Maybe there’s a need for daytime childcare or before/after school care. Maybe there’s a community celebration, sporting event, concert or festival coming up and your parking lot could be full of cars. Think about the impact of free parking as people come to your town.
These are just some jumping off points, but together we can be for our neighbors by using our buildings in creative ways!