Faith-Based Community Resource Hubs
Faith communities becoming catalysts,
leveraging their underused buildings and property
for the sake of their neighborhoods and their mission
I’ll give it to you straight:
Faith Communities are rapidly become unsustainable in their current form. Even before Covid, it was becoming abundantly clear (to those who had eyes to see it) that by the end of this century, the typical house of worship, as we have come to know and love it, would only be found stuffed and mounted in ecclesiastical museums. And now, in the aftermath of Covid, the date of its untimely demise will be anybody’s guess. My own estimate is that we have a 20-year window (maybe 25, if your congregation has an endowment).
The proverbial writing is on the proverbial wall. Just look around you:
Shrinking Membership. Before our current trend bottoms out the number of Christians per congregation will drop to less that 60, half of which will be unaffiliated with any faith community or denomination, leaving the average congregation with a total active membership of around 30 (The Religion Singularity). The average worship space is now operating at less than half of its seating capacity. And that ratio is dropping. (Pew Research)
Congregations Closing at a Rapid Clip. The inevitable impact on finances has left most congregations facing some degree of financial difficulty, leading to an estimated 3,850–7,700 worship centers closing every year. And the number of closures per year is increasing. Where once were church buildings now stand bookstores, brew pubs and wineries, skate parks and laser tag arenas, luxury condos, and even frat houses. (Journal of Pastoral Psychology).
Community Challenges Growing. Many urban and rural communities are struggling with dozens of issues like the lack of access to living wage employment, affordable housing, medical insurance, health care, and social services, which leads to many living in substandard conditions or even becoming homeless because they can’t afford to live and work in their communities (Regional Indicators Dashboard Project).
Community Resources Shrinking. Ironically, many of the government and nonprofit organizations that could help these people with the challenges they face are increasingly unable afford to locate in the communities they serve.
Feels like things are growing more and more hopeless for congregations and the communities they serve, right?
What if congregations were to look for hidden opportunities in the challenges they face?
Bloomberg CityLab estimates that there are more than 500,000 acres of unused church land in the United States (more than that, undoubtedly, if you include land owned by congregations of other religious traditions). Meanwhile, according to research by Pushpay, most houses of worship are empty 85% of the time. And there’s all that underused space we talked about above.
Most congregations are currently trying to fill their financial gaps opportunistically rather than strategically, renting out their unused rooms on a first-come-first-serve basis for things like Wedding receptions, birthday parties, Scout or AA meetings, yoga or aerobics classes, or performances. Some even rent their unused property for neighborhood festivals, club barbeques, or for crop growing by a local farmer. Not that any of these are bad things, per se, but they are often done primarily for the money they can raise – not tied to their vision and mission nor grounded in any data about neighborhood needs.
To use their land and buildings more strategically, congregations need readily accessible and practically useful data about the demographics of the people in their neighborhoods and the issues they are facing. They also need a process for moving from understanding to real-world, actionable strategies.
That’s where FaithX comes in: providing interactive reports about the characteristics of people and the needs of the neighborhoods, and providing consultative assistance to help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your congregation, the opportunities and challenges in your community, and leveraging your strengths, including your property and building, to bring resources to bear on on the needs of the community.
We call this approach Faith-Based Neighborhood Resource Hubs.
If you’d like to find out more about how this process works, click here
or contact us at [email protected].