So, what is the role of the church? What IS it that churches are supposed to be doing? I mean, there are some obvious (I hope!) answers to that question. Worship. Sunday School. Bible studies. Youth groups. Food. Those would (I assume) be at or near the top of list for most people when asked that question.
But what else? What SHOULD churches be doing in and with the community? And what SHOULDN’T they be doing? To quote Willy Shakespeare…THAT is the question!
The reason I ask is that the church I currently serve tends to do a lot of things that are not necessarily things that many churches are doing on a regular basis. And that fact, all by itself, makes me ask, “What is the role of the church?”
Let me give you some examples. We host, every year, the preschool screening event that the school district sponsors. For a two-day period, a part of our building…a pretty decent part of our building…is filled with people, coming and going, as kids are tested and screened in anticipation of preschool.
Every year, we host an event that is a wellness check for the employees of the county. It lasts all day and dozens of county employees are in and out of the building, having a variety of screening tests.
Our United Methodist Men have hosted free PSA screenings. Any and all men, 40 and over, were welcome to come and have a free, simple blood test that is a screening for potential PSA-related issues.
The Girl Scouts are in the building every week. The local Relay For Life team regularly meets in the building. Other groups in the community periodically use our space for meetings, events and dinners. There is almost never a week when some group not directly associated with the church uses the building for their gathering or event.
I have known churches that frown on that approach. “They’ll mess things up. They’ll break things. We have to pay to heat/cool the building for THEM?” The list goes on. An in the end, every church has to decide what works for them. But I am personally delighted to serve a church that sees outreach to the community as an important part of who we are.
My thought is this- how can I, in one breath, tell a group they aren’t welcome and then, in the next breath, invite individual members of that very same group to come to worship? That is an incredibly mixed message. Do I ask groups to clean up after themselves? Yep. Do I give them the option of paying for our custodian to clean up after them if they choose not to clean? Uh huh. Do I give them some helpful input on building usage? Sure. But do I see inviting the community into our building…God’s building…as an income center? Nope!
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