A New Mission for the Church: Community Formation for the Social Good
Very few subjects have been more discussed than the mission of the church. There is no shortage of books, articles, sermons and talks on the subject. Yet, could I add a voice to a neglected part?
First, some clarifications about my perspective are in order. While theologically trained, I remain a lay person. I live my life in the marketplace and in the family world. My involvement and exposure to the church enterprise is limited to Sundays and conversation with friends. For the moment, I am not in the frontline of ministry and that in itself may give me a unique perspective.
For years as a believer and especially in my time in seminary I always wondered about the church’s role on the weekdays. I am not talking about marketplace ministry but a more fundamental question than that. What is the church’s role in the life of society when it is not performing its official worship functions? For many churches this time is focused on expanding its reach by improving and enhancing the worshiping experience. For some, it is about discipling and teaching their members in the evenings. Yet even the last one, except for the Christian schools, happens mostly outside of working hours, in the spare time of the faithful. What about the working hours during the week? Is there a place for the church to serve beyond running its own administrative tasks?
The church as an institution must model the values it seeks to instill in its members. So, if we call people to reach out to their neighbors in selfless ways, the church as an organization should also do outreach without the expectation of adding to its member rolls. Moreover, what can the church offer as an institution to the communities where they are placed outside its original goal of growing God’s family? I would submit that when the church offers goods and services that contribute to the common good, it is therefore fulfilling this mission of selfless outreach outlined above.
There is another reason why offering weekday activities for the common good should be part of a church’s portfolio: stewardship. It is an incredible waste of real estate to build large education buildings and sanctuaries that get used at most two or three times a week for a few hours! Imagine the possibilities if these empty spaces were put to good use in the nine-to-five weekday window. This does not mean that the church itself should fill up this slot with additional ministry opportunities. While that can be part of the portfolio, in many cases it may be offering space at lower cost so other organization that are working towards the common good can use its facilities.
This offer becomes all the more relevant in a time when automation and e-commerce are fast making retail space obsolete. Store fronts are disappearing and so are community rallying points where people could encounter each other. In this environment of increasing isolation, an open church building on the weekdays can become a haven for community formation in a time where these physical spaces are disappearing.
There is much more to say on this matter. For now, I submit this request: Pastor, church leader, board member, deacons and church members: have you considered opening your building on the weekday?. Maybe I just gave you an idea for a new committee. Use it wisely!
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. Is your church open in the weekdays business hours? If so, what do they offer?
Q2. Do you think the church should work for the common good? How does that enhance or deter evangelism?
Q3. What type of activities or ministries would you like to see spring up in your church on weekday business hours?