I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a church (any faith community, really) relevant and indispensable. I don't just mean relevant and indispensable to the people who come to the church, those who worship there, and attend classes, and are touched by the church and its ministries. I mean the wider community, the neighborhood.
What makes a church relevant and indispensable to the wider community?
As I begin my 4th year at First Universalist, we are beginning to take significant steps to truly engage with the wider community, in a more intentional and sustained way, but we're still a long, long way from were we might be...from where we dream of being.
My greatest fear is that if the church disappeared tomorrow, the neighbors right around us would say, "Hmm...I think there was a church there...I'm not sure. I don't really know." That's a heartbreaking thought.
Instead, if we disappeared, I love to imagine that the neighbors in the community might instead say something like this: "That church was incredible...they will be missed...they provided a great space for community gatherings, and cook outs and concerts in their parking lot; their community garden brought a whole bunch of us together and we'll maintain that no matter who moves into the building! And their after school program for children was such a gift to the community, too. They were engaged in their neighborhood: they help rebuild homes; they hosted block parties; they partnered with others in the community to work on racial justice issues..."
I'm dreaming here, throwing out ideas, but you get the sense of where I'm going with this question.
So what makes a church indispensable and relevant? What are your thoughts/experiences? What makes a church truly indispensable to the neighborhood and community, as well as those who attend?
Please share your stories, ideas, and call out the amazing things that churches (faith communities) are doing to be engaged in their wider communities.
Let's start a conversation!