When I saw this video, and considered what a community’s “third place” should be, (after the home and the workplace), I also saw a great opportunity for the church. All over our county there are buildings that are either closed 6 days a week or similarly underused. They are our neighborhood churches.
A few years ago I was scouting out places to do summer ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship. We would put on 5 Day Clubs®, which is our version of Vacation Bible School, at churches, recreation centers, day care facilities, and even in people’s homes. I wanted to serve some poor neighborhood with this ministry and found a park we could use, but it was not a safe place. There was broken glass and sharp metal debris, and it looked like a haunt for drug addicts and prostitutes. This was not an ideal location for children’s ministry. However, there were 2 small churches, all locked up for the weekdays, within 100 yards of the park. I called the phone numbers on the signs for the pastors, but no one ever returned my calls.
A small church in an urban neighborhood could become an ideal “third place” for kids, teens, elderly people, and even adults who want to network for finding work. Yes, keeping the lights on and running the heat and air all week costs money, but doing ministry costs money! But for people who are looking for a mission, for an opportunity to change their world, this is an idea worth supporting. I mean, who really wants to pay tithes to a church that only exists to have Sunday morning church? Not me.
Here’s an idea. If you have an empty church building in a neighborhood, consider having a 5 Day Club for a week in July. Get your people on board making lunch every day for the kids in the neighborhood. Make sure the kids have a permission slip from a parent with parental contact information. After lunch, have one of our missions teams do the 90 minute 5 Day Club. When they are finished, let the kids stick around for board games and whatever other playtime activity you can have at your facility. Then let them go home.
Make sure you have some members of your congregation to be around to watch this so they can catch the vision of what their church could mean to the neighborhood. Recruit some of them to have a weekly Good News Club® after school when school starts up in the fall. They will need to be trained and receive a background check.
Start planning on having something else going on each weekday afternoon after school: homework help, chess club, art class, craft skills. Find some adult who can share their talent with kids in the neighborhood after school. Start by becoming the kids’ third place; one that is safe and clean. All this amounts to about 10 extra hours per week of utilities. But we are not finished.
You have contact information for all the parents now. Have a few weeknight meetings to which you invite them. Feed them and ask them how you can serve them better. Every evening you could be open til 9, being the third place for grown ups where they can be part of a small group, or take an active parenting class, or have free health screenings…or even have a worship service. Do you really care if most of your worshipers end up praising God on a Tuesday night instead of Sunday morning?
All of this could start with one week of ministry to children this summer. Before you know it, you have young families in your church again, and God starts moving through your people in the neighborhood. You get all this done without becoming a megachurch with posh chairs, a light show and sound system, and other things that don’t really matter but cost a bundle. Are you up for this? Call us now at 352-378-0949!