Our student ministry meets in a house....at least that's what it looks from the outside. But walk inside and walls are ripped out, carpet is mismatched, furniture is sporadically arranged, and the smell is funky. It was recently described as "ghetto-rific." It's on the property adjacent to our church building, and the youth LOVE it.
We meet in it Wednesday nights for youth group and Sunday mornings for Sunday school. Occasionally the house is home to a lock-in, youth event, or Friday-night fifth quarter, but the majority of the time it just sits there, empty. I've had a dream forever of it being open on weekdays after school for homework and hanging out, and on weekend nights for a safe alternative to what so many high schoolers choose. It's in the works, but in the meantime...
Tonight, a group other that 901west met in it. Young Life set up camp in our space....and it was incredible! I loved the opportunity for "our" little house to get used another night of the week.
One of our staff members asked me last week about the possibility of an adult small group meeting in the house once a week. Absolutely!
In my mind, it comes down to being a good steward of this space God has given us, and well as embracing a vision to be the Church, emphasis on the capital C. Having a group like Young Life in the house on Monday nights, or a small group on Thursday nights definitely comes with obstacles. Those political, logistical things church leaders LOVE to deal with.
Who's going to be responsible for cleaning it? Who's in charging up opening and locking up? How are we going to pay the extra utilities? Will it interfere with what "our" church needs the building for? Will the trash service collect that much garbage? Do we have a good enough insurance policy?
I say to hell with that. And I don't mean to that to be crass or crude, but I mean it quite literally. I think those are the questions that Satan uses to break up the potential of the Church. Are they things, important things, things that need to be addressed? For sure! But should they define our decisions? Not it we can help it.
What if sharing space meant that my youth group kids all came to Young Life, and brought with them their amazing ability to build community? And what if the YL kids, looking for a place to be spiritually fed, started attending our youth group on Wednesdays?
What if a member of the small group was in the construction or cleaning or home repair field, and in exchange for use of the building did some volunteer work hooking up our new stove and rewiring some light fixtures?
And beyond that...what if we invited the Spanish church around the block to join in our Upward Football program, and that built relationships leading to using our facilities to teach ESL classes to our neighbors, a vast number of whom are Hispanic?
And in all these situations, what if we didn't "get anything in return?" Alright then! We are still called to serve, to help others, to love. Sometimes our American Christian pride gets in the way. We're selfish. And that's when things become US and OURS! None of it belongs to you or me, it's all God's to begin with. I'd like to make the most with the things God has entrusted to me.
The Christian school gymnasium around the corner, the empty field next door, the family-owned convenience store down the street...the list goes on and on. My mind is racing with possibilities of partnerships, opportunities to be the Church. In February, our Student Ministry is joining with a few others in the area to participate in the 30 Hour Famine. We get to serve (and starve) along with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It's students supporting students. It's a church and a church being the Church.
This is the kind of church I want my kids to see. A church that makes the most of every opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I'm pretty sure that back in the day if Jesus wanted to use your backyard to preach a sermon or use your house to host a banquet, you wouldn't worry about if it would kill the grass or dirty your floor or use the last of your food. You would gladly welcome Him in, and all who followed. The rest of the details would work themselves out, because God has a way of providing like that.
So let's partner together. Let's realize that what we do in our lives and churches is so much bigger than just what we do in our lives and churches. What organizations in your community can you join up with? What resources...time, spaces, skills, people...can you share? Not just in organized church, but in personal ministry as well? Can you cook, clean, babysit? Get to it! Let's be the Church.