It wasn’t that long ago when the word “redevelopment” was associated with churches in need… maybe even in peril. Some of these faith communities sought grants to repurpose buildings left vacuous by membership migration and/or declining interest in church overall. Some just needed some revitalization and renewal regarding welcoming practices (guest parking, good signage, revamp the nursery for children, train friendly greeters, etc.). Often there were mass mailings to local zip codes to inform the public about your church and your programming. Occasionally, there might be some activity in which to invite the community. All of this is/was well-intentioned, but it was based on a false assumption: people are going to be drawn to us and come into our doors, if we do all the right things.
As you know, the culture has been shifting for a long time. In a 2020 Pew research study 65% of adults identified as Christian compared to 85% in 1990. This statistic points to the reality that, like it or not, all churches need to see themselves as perennially redeveloping churches. Our buildings may be in great shape and our worship and programming sharp, but our spiritual infrastructure, our sense of values, mission, and vision may need a serious overhaul. Very, very few people are going to come to us because we think they should (and certainly not enough to make up for the attrition of membership due to death and migration away from Christianity).
So what now? What does redevelopment-for-the-rest-of-us look like in 2021? The answer is so simple… and so hard. Take a deep breath. Here it comes. To be faithful to our mission, we must re-learn what it means to be a kind and attentive neighbor again. We must relearn our neighborhoods. We must know our neighbors and allow them to know us. How can we know what it means to redevelop our churches for the sake of our neighbors if we don’t know who they are? What if the work of the Spirit and the opportunity we have been praying for, is happening outside the walls of the church, hidden in plain sight, and waiting for our “yes?”[Read more…]