My church is in the process of launching a new satellite venue, with the audacious goal of launching seven satellites in seven venues on seven days of the week.
In my last post, I talked about a bump in the road for finding venues. I spent four or five hours one Saturday driving around town with a non-Christian on my launch team looking and imagining where we might meet. One of the places we came across was Grumpy’s Diner, which closes every night at 7 p.m. This seemed perfect. All I had to do was talk the owner into staying open for two more hours and giving us the space for free. No small task.
So I dropped in unannounced one day. The owner, Bill, wasn’t in, so I talked to the kitchen supervisor. He seemed genuinely interested, but said I needed to talk to the owner. I came back the next day and met with the owner. Within five minutes he had bought into the idea (actually he liked it the moment he heard it from the kitchen supervisor). I couldn’t believe how easy this conversation was. He’ll close at 7 p.m. and give the place over to us -- for free!
Part of the reason this was easy was because Bill is a Christian. He’s not from the same “tradition” as I am, but we had enough in common that he not only bought into the business sense of the whole thing but also bought into the mission of it. He actually seems only interested in breaking even on the deal (covering his expenses for staff and utilities). He’ll keep the kitchen open while we meet (we’re not yet sure how that’s going to work but figure that the last supper happened during a meal so why can’t we worship during a meal too?) and that will be how he covers his expenses. In the mean time, we’ll get an eighty-seat diner to use without dropping a dime.
Doors seem to be opening in all kinds of ways, and oddly this diner has something to do with that. I’ve talked with several people who don’t have a church home who are seriously intrigued by the idea of a church meeting in a diner. These conversations have been quite diverse: from a principal of a local elementary school to the Hispanic dry-waller finishing my basement. And I’m finding it easier and easier to be invitational (where was that training at my seminary internship?) because the venue is new and unique.
The point: Space matters, and new spaces open up new opportunities for ministry.
When was the last time you went out into your community with a big crazy idea and asked a community business or organization to give you something for free that would be a win-win for both of you? If you can’t remember the last time, then go back to prayer and ask God for a bigger imagination. Then hit the pavement.
Tom Arthur is pastor of Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan.