Experience Congregations in Mission
By Kerry Richards
Canada East Mission Centre President
We are piloting new models of sacred space to optimize our community presence. Is it possible to transform a facility from being invisible to the surrounding community to being a place of passerby curiosity, purposeful interaction and everyday gathering. Wholeheartedly YES!! But you likely need to move to a new streetscape location. The Barrie congregation rented a storefront space just 3 months ago. Our curb appeal presents through our picture window a Products for Purpose sales area, a Conversation Lounge and a comfortable learning space with a SMART 65” TV all within an affordable 1300 sq ft area. Our typical traditional Sunday attendance is 15 persons. This is magnified greatly through weekly community invitational programming. Through our experienced marketing using social media, meetup group networking, walking the neighbourhood hospitality, safe signage and an invitational enthusiasm we welcomed 80 people to our Open House. We literally had standing room only with sidewalk ministers sharing with passersby who stopped to see and hear what was happening in their neighbourhood.
For a facility to exude mission, the dynamic visibility of your place, your safe name profile, the magnetism of your interior setup, the signage promoting your daily relevant activities, are the eye candy that draws the curious in your door. If you supplement this with marketing which exposes your welcoming space and endearing programs to the vast numbers of poised Seekers, you have the tools to be radically missional. Seekers comprise 30% of your community and their on-line search to fill the yearning within, to find community belonging, spiritual meaning and the means to make a difference with their lives; all lead to what you have created expressly for them. Mission is not about us. Mission in action is when the space for Seekers is safe, comfortable and inviting. Then every day numerous new people will drop in, every day social media draws those in life transitions into your space for conversation groups, Ted Talks, meditation, crafts, yoga, streamed lectures and movies that matter. Their lives are transformed by the space that carries an aura of difference from traditional faith based settings. Facilities matter in Mission. Renting vs ownership doesn’t matter, but if a congregation is trapped in financial constraints through ownership that limits their missional reality, then renting is a critical transformative step that also amounts to a survival strategy in this era of church decline. It is a no turning back decision to reframe $$ assets, to engage in covenant ministry in hands-on Seeker based modes not traditional approaches. The sometimes surprising reality in this adventure in faith is that the end result is so incredibly and radically fulfilling on so many transformative levels that you will discover that truly our welfare as a faith community, as disciples, is found in the welfare of those who newly enter our sacred space.
So why rent? Our present congregations are almost invisible. They project religious institutional red flags and are typically only used by commuting congregants. Assets from the sale of a building invested in a rental space opens the door to vast new possibilities you never envisioned before. One facility with new missional creativity becomes two or more locations local to clusters of commuting members. These become new plants. Local literally means GROWTH!! The neighbourhood where you live, work and shop becomes an intentional interactive Mission space with your local friends. A safe space with new signage profiles, opens the door for comfortable invitation. Local proximity means the space is used for relevant activities every day and felt meaning within will bring friends in faith back week after week.
Barrie congregation hosts events almost daily. The number of community participants outnumbers members. Our activities become our intentionally introductory platform to present the identity of Community of Christ. We created what we call “Identity Walls” which are filled with posters, graphics, pictures and resources that portray the life of our faith community, our Enduring Principles, Mission Initiatives, our inclusivity, our community engagement, camping programs and youth happenings. These become our talking points for safely relating who we are, what we value and what we do. This wall, our stories won’t be shared unless facilities are transformed into places of missional possibility.
Let us become free of facility constraints in $$, facility designs that meet yesteryears needs, locations that are illusively invisible, proximity that is distant from our own daily lives. Let us be free to discern Mission from the eyes of those on the outside looking in, from the needs of the vast solo Seeker population in their search for sacred community they don’t yet perceive they need. Renting space allows experimentation and new models to be envisioned and piloted. The Mission Prayer daily inspires new courage and accompanying blessing. Let us be free to be is the call to be missional facilitators vs managers of facilities.
community of christ
355 Elmira Road North, Unit 129
Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
Canada West Mission: 877-411-2632
Canada East Mission: 888-411-7537