Saturday, February 26, 2005

Strategic Ground: Series On Withdrawing From Society

I heard Dr. William C. Krispin of CityNet Ministries speak last week at Chesapeake Presbytery. He preached and also gave a teaching time on strategic planning. He mentioned the book
Edge City : Life on the New Frontier by Joell Garreau. The basic premise of the talk is that cities have developed somewhat differently than one might expect. People tend to stay close to home to work and live. This creates series of cities around a major metropolitan area, edge cities. These are where the people go to church. He implied that a good place for churches to build was near the intersection of two or more major highways. I think for a church to be available to the most people that makes sense; easy access. In building churches what kind of an area do you put them in? In Europe the churches were build in the city square and were central to the city. This means that they were the center and usually commerce developed around them. Churches are no longer built in the city center in Europe, but they are not built that way in the U.S. either. Given how cities have an already developed downtown, we probably can't put churches downtown on a major scale. Where do we want to put them?

Residential area? This places them in a neighborhood, this emphasizes that religion is a part of private life vice public life. There is truth in the idea that religion is a part of the private life but it has a public aspect. It also means that people in that neighborhood find it accessible and those with strong ties to the denomination or families of the congregation. When a congregation gets too large in a neighborhood though, building a campus with lots of traffic, the neighborhood often starts trying to put road blocks to their cozy community becoming a traffic nightmare on Sundays.

Collegiate Church

Industrial area? There may be some real estate cost benefits here and parking space benefits but the area seems a little cold to seem welcoming. You may not get a lot of visitors just popping in because the church is in their area. The architecture may suffer greatly if one uses existing industrial buildings. I used to attend a couple of churches in this kind of situation.

Commercial area? Here the church is placed near neighborhoods but not in them. People already use the area to shop. It is usually near good areas to get traffic. The architecture can suffer if one uses existing structures but it has potential if care is taken to build so that the church actually looks and feels right. My church uses commercial space that has been radically refurbished. Though some days I don't feel we went far enough with the rebuild.

Green space areas? Parks and other green space can give a church a more contemplative feel. The
Xenos church I visited in Columbus, OH had lots of green space, woods and fields, on and near their campus. They were not too far from highway I-270 which is the Columbus beltway. This means neighbors are not as big a problem trying to keep the church small. While the Xenos church makes this work, most green space can have accessibility issues.

I would love to hear your experiences with what type of area your church is located and how it works (doesn't work) for you.

Or alternatively, if you were to build a new church, what type of area would you put it in?

Your comments are welcome.

Storefront Church on Chicago's South Side

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