What’s The Best Use of Our Church Space?

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, we’re curating a series on NEXT Church resources. Members of the NEXT Church communications team, staff, and advisory team are selecting resources already on our site and sharing the ways they have (or would) use them in their ministry context. We pray these will be of use to you in your own ministry! Have other ideas for resources you’ve used from our website? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Jen James

In his Ignite presentation, Mark Elsdon shares a story about how creative revenue generation and a major impact investment turned a campus ministry on the verge of closing into a vibrant multi-million dollar ministry serving 750 students per year.

Whether you are considering a big project like Pres House or a small project to better utilize your church building space, this exercise would be great for:

  • A session meeting
  • A building committee meeting
  • A gathered small group of visionary church members

Before watching the video, ask the question: If someone wondered in off the street and asked, “what happens here?” how would you respond?

Now, watch the video.

Here are potential discussion questions:

  • What ministries of your church will your community be talking about 111 years from now?
  • Mark says, “But how was this spark going to turn into a lasting flame without some fuel?” What are the sparks in your community? What are the things about which you are dreaming?
  • What are some creative and innovative sources of fuel in your midst? Do you have some “literally in your backyard?”
  • If there was no chance of failure, what risks would you take to creatively use your space?
  • Who could be your supporters and partners in an innovative building/space project?
  • What would be a first step to consider adding fuel to a spark?

Continuing the Conversation:

Where else can we do this? What are the institutions that are ready to diversify and make more of an impact with their capital? What are the social enterprises that you can think of for those funders to invest in?

Jen James is the National Gathering coordinator for NEXT Church. She lives in Alexandria, VA were she is also a facilitator and educator-at-large helping to equip congregations. 

Trusting in God, Always at Work

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a series on the Sarasota Statement, which we unveiled a year ago and continue to promote for use in our congregations and communities, along with the accompanying study guide. You will hear from a variety of voices and contexts throughout March, reacting to phrases in the statement, and sharing ways it is being used. How have you used the Sarasota Statement? What is your reaction to these phrases? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter

by Derrick Weston

“We trust that God is always at work in our world and in our lives, giving us joy, and calling us to be faithful to Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom.”
– The Sarasota Statement

Underpinning the confessions, griefs, and commitments of the Sarasota Statement is a hope. That hope is rooted in a belief that God is at work, remaking the world in justice in love. It is this deep hope that allows us to carry on even when It seems that the world is at its darkest. We trust that God is working in our lives. We also trust that God is working through our lives. It’s that trust which keeps us from wavering in our work, recognizing the privilege we are given to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.

For the last year I have had the privilege of working as the neighborhood organizer for Arlington Presbyterian Church just outside of Washington, D.C. Facing struggles similar to many congregations in the denomination — namely a large, aging building and a small, aging congregation — the church took a faithful step. They sold the building to a local, mission-oriented developer who is in the process of turning the space where the building once was into affordable housing, a major need in Northern Virginia. It was a courageous move, one that could only be made with a firm belief that God is doing a new thing and the church gets to be a part of it.

APC is in the middle of a process. Once the new building is constructed, the church will relocate to the first floor of the new affordable housing complex in a newly designed storefront. While there is incredible excitement for what the church will be once the new space is completed, it is in this in-between time when that trust is tested. The imagery of desert and wilderness feel less like abstract notions and more like lived realities. And it is in this “here but not yet” mode that the church relies on God for her joy.

We find our joy in thinking through new ways of being church. We find our joy in creating new partnerships that will help us to serve the community. We find our joy in knowing that the trail we blaze now may be for the benefit of other congregations that will follow our path or one like it. The joy that we experience is no fleeting emotionalism, but a deep satisfaction in knowing that we are striving to be faithful to the vision that God has given us. It is that joy, based in hope and perseverance that sustains us when the way ahead feels uncertain.

None of what the Sarasota Statement calls for is easy. The work to which it calls us is the work of many lifetimes. These words from the closing of the statement remind me of Dr. King’s insistence that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The work of God’s Kingdom is a slow, incremental climb toward love of God and love of neighbor. The importance of this reminder is that we should work in a way that builds on the legacies of the past while preparing to pass the baton to the leaders of the future. This ensures that the vision to which we are being faithful is indeed, Christ’s vision and not our own.

Derrick Weston is the neighborhood organizer at Arlington Presbyterian Church. He is the co-host of two podcasts, “God Complex Radio” and “The Gospel According to Marvel” and blogs regularly at

Our Public Witness: Creating Bi-vocational Churches

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Jan Nolting Carter is curating a mosaic of perspectives on the art of transitional ministry. How do we work with people and systems in the midst of change? What does transitional ministry look like inside and outside of the church? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Beth Scibienski

A Hindu dance school who had been using our building (and providing $14K in donation to the church) had outgrown our space and was not returning. Yikes – how are we going to make up $14K? That’s the first question we asked but it wasn’t the question we chose to answer.

Instead, we asked, “What if God is wanting us to use the resource of our building for more than rental money? What if God envisions another vocation for us?” We know our first vocation – to be a group of disciples who form a worshiping body of people in our context. And we were doing well at that vocation but what if God had more for us, something different, something that would transform who we are. The truth was if we were to ask anyone in our community what they knew about our church, we heard answers like, “Oh, that’s the church that’s odd shaped, right?” Or, “that’s the church with the preschool.” Those two statements were the public witness of our congregation. That didn’t seem like enough of a public witness for us and so we began to dream about how God would expand, grow, transform us through this transitional opportunity.

The first question, “how will we recover $14K?” is an easy place to stop. And there are plenty of churches working that problem, piecing together income to keep a church afloat financially. But being a landlord is not the same thing as using our resources for witness. We needed to change the first question and it wasn’t going to change unless someone was willing to change the conversation. Conversations don’t just change. People change conversations; leaders who are looking to create transformation change conversations.

Of course as Presbyterians, when we attempt to change the conversation, we sentence that new conversation to a committee where it will lose its energy to thrive or it will be picked apart until there is nothing left of the new idea. But for those in transitional ministry, we assume transitional opportunities can lead to transformation. Transitional leaders change the conversation. Transitional leaders build coalitions. Transitional leaders listen between the lines and tease out the direction the Spirit is leading. Transitional leaders realize the Holy Spirit loves transition  – transition of a pastor, the transition of a church board, the transition of a rental arrangement – because it’s in the transition that systems and people are open to transformation.

When we were faced with the transition of a renter, we transformed our public witness. We created another vocation for our congregation. In the early stages, we created this presentation called “Church with Many Doors.”

The vision for a “Church with Many Doors” created the Sand Hills Community Wellness Center whose mission is to provide programs and services that enhance the growth of mind, body and spirit. In addition to our first vocation of being a worshiping community of disciples, we are growing a second vocation (actually a third with our preschool that cares for 80 families in our community)… Yoga classes, mental health counseling, support groups, writing classes, garden to table programs, nutritional counseling and meals cooked in community. The services and programs at our Wellness Center have expanded our public witness and this new public witness is transforming who we are and what we are becoming as a church.

6Beth Scibienski is a teaching elder in the PCUSA, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (the merged congregation of Community Presbyterian and Miller Memorial Presbyterian). She blogs at and recently, she and her siblings have been teaching themselves to beat box.