Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sacred Places

Ok. You know I'm a geek. Here's where it becomes obvious.

I've spent the last couple of days at a workshop put on by Partners for Sacred Places, a non-sectarian non-profit dedicated to helping places of worship use their spaces more efficiently and for the betterment of the community.

If you follow that link, there are a lot of resources that they publish, as well as the results of a study they did a couple of years ago. Some of the numbers that struck me that I intend to be quoting a lot:

93% of urban congregations open their doors to outside ministries
On average, congregations use the building 19% of the time. 81% of building use is by community organizations.

Also, everybody needs a roof.

Much of it focused on being able to tell the story of a congregation clearly in three steps:
Who we are - the heritage and culture of the congregation
What we have - buildings, grounds, and other resources
What we do - areas of ministry

So, both the cocktail party version and the one page case story and the ten page grant proposal all come out of knowing those three things.

Further, break it down:
What is the heritage and culture of the space? Why was it founded? Who founded it/built it? Who spoke there? Who paid to put stuff there? Who's buried there? What role has it historically had in the community it serves? Who worships there?

What are the buildings? What shape are the buildings in? What needs to be done for the physical plant? What are the available rooms? What are the resources of the congregation? What do members of the congregation like to do? What are they good at? What are the gifts of God within the congregation? Where do they work? What are their other interests/activities outside of church?

What happens inside our building outside of Sunday morning? How many people who are not members/attendees use our building? What's that percentage? What ministries do we run as a congregation? What is the value to the community in dollars, if the community had to replace our space and staff and pay the volunteers?

Once you figure out the story and what you have, you can figure out what you need, who to ask, and how to do it efficiently.

Other people are doing our programs better, somewhere. How do we start conversations so that we can all work towards the betterment of all our communities?

Life, health, and safety issues first. Then the rest of it.

I have shiny tools for asset mapping, finding money, and writing grants. I'm still processing a lot of things.

One of the suggestions put forth was to do a historic church tour of St. Louis. There are enough of them around that each neighborhood could probably come up with their own. If you ran it in conjunction with another neighborhood event (say, Taste of South Grand or the Shaw Art Fair), we could probably manage to make at least a little money off of it.

This is supposed to be about conversations in the community. What conversations should we be having?

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