This post on Strategic Redevelopment is written by Steve Matthews, Senior Consultant for the FaithX Project.
“Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on.”
I have invested a lot of enjoyable time and energy working with churches in redevelopment over the past 10 years. Even so, sometimes I still find myself scratching my head asking, “What is redevelopment?,” and “What does it mean to go about it strategically?” Honestly, both words sound like a pretty mechanistic description for the vital work of nurturing beloved community and daring to be vulnerable enough to share ourselves and our experience of God’s love with our neighbors (which is the core of redevelopment for me).
“Redevelopment” feels a little retro to me – it feels like an invitation to dust ourselves off and recommit to our past strategies in new ways. The word almost makes me pine for the glory days of churchland when there were lots of children in the pews, the roof didn’t leak, and we could boost our attendance and giving if we just followed this innovative six-step plan. I used to think that redevelopment was more of a program: Good signage, eye-catching web presence, good branding, trained greeters, uncluttered narthex, outreach events that extended an invitation to come inside to the church, and mass mailings. I’m not saying this kind of stuff doesn’t matter. It does, and if you mean to re-up or freshen up the way you do church then maybe redevelopment is the right word.
But I don’t think “redevelopment” like this is what we are called to in the landscape of church today. There are no reliable six step plans for us to follow. There is only the nurturing of relationship, connection, and mutuality both within our churches and in our neighborhoods and communities – and then being courageous enough to trust the life-giving discernment that follows. We need to know and be known by our neighbors, we need to delight in them and be vulnerable and accessible enough to them to allow them to delight in us! We can be strategic in this, but only if we are willing to grow at the speed of community/relationship. Our relationships will show us the changes in our church structures that are necessary for our redevelopment, if we can be wise and trust the process.
FaithX is uniquely suited to accompany churches in this kind of redevelopment… this kind of becoming. We are trained and experienced coaches and consultants who embrace community transformation as part of our vocation, and we have the mapping and demographic tools available to help you discern how and where to engage your neighbors next. May we all find ourselves more courageous and hopeful in the possibilities of God’s mission in our communities, and may we dare to engage them together!