Here’s a story about a church that closed: Westside Church of Christ in McKinney, Texas. Their building was sold to the McKinney School District, which found a use for it as an alternative school for students who had committed anything from “serious breaches of the district rulebook to misdemeanor crimes.”
Then, after the school was in its new home, a church that has no “home” found the school (that used to be a church) and made the school its mission. Sound confusing? Read the article here.
What I love about this story is that it distinguishes between a building, a church (faith community), and a mission:
* The building has been a church, and is now a school. It’s just a building, after all; we can make it into anything we need it to be.
* The church is a group of people who have come together to serve the world in the manner of Christ, and they can do that in any number of ways. In this case, it’s The Parks Church: a young, 300 member congregation that “has no home of its own, drifting from venue to venue since 2011″.
* The mission is the opportunity God puts in front of a congregation to live out their faith in practical ways in the world. In this case, it means caring for the students and teachers at a school that is easily overlooked; a school that works with kids on the verge of delinquency who need a temporary, academic “time out”.
Maybe it isn’t always wise to separate building, mission and people. Sometimes they are inextricably woven together. But in some cases, it is good to do the exercise of pulling them apart:
* Who is your church community and what are they capable of?
* What is the mission God is calling your church to carry out?
* What is your building suited for and what does the community need it to be?
By separating these questions from each other, maybe some churches will find that the building and the people have two separate missions. Others will find they don’t need a permanent home at all (!Let me know if you are aware of churches like this!). Some may find the building is an obstacle to fulfilling their mission, while others will find uses for their buildings that help them carry out a new mission altogether.
Thanks again to Joe Duggan of Congregational Seasons for sniffing this story out!