Houses of Worship are not just for worship anymore

Religion News Service | 3/8/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — When First Congregational Church of Bellingham built a new sanctuary in the mid-2000s, it wanted to be sure the facility would be used all week long and not just on Sunday.

So along with worship space, the Washington state congregation’s plans included a ground-level space with a separate entrance that could be used by an outside ministry or nonprofit.

Partner - Time - Building - Decade - Space

Finding the right partner took some time. The building was finished in 2004, and, for more than a decade, the extra space was used as storage.

Then last month, the church dedicated The Ground Floor, a custom-built drop-in center for homeless youth, run in partnership with Northwest Youth Services, a local nonprofit.

Fit - Organization - Sharon - A - Benton

“It felt like a hand-in-glove fit, that this was an organization we could work with,” said Sharon A. Benton, pastor of First Congregational.

While many churches engage in mission activities “beyond the walls” of their buildings, others are finding innovative ways to use their facilities to serve others and extend their mission in existing properties.

Congregations - Agreements - Way - Use - Spaces

Some congregations see rental agreements as a way to make use of underutilized spaces or to augment declining church budgets, allowing the worshiping community to stay in a facility it could not otherwise afford. Others have long-standing arrangements to incorporate profit-making and not-for-profit businesses, such as child care centers, into their physical plant.

Other faith communities want to support organizations that fulfill or extend the mission of the church.

First - Congregational - Space - Church - Programs

First Congregational needed more space for church programs and worship attendance when it built its current sanctuary. It was also concerned about its mission, said Benson.

“The congregation knew it wouldn’t be able to do anything with the basement at that time,” she said. “But it was already having conversations about what it would do for mission in the community.”

Ground - Floor - Space - Furniture - Home

At first, the ground floor space was used to store furniture and home...
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