Church As The ‘Local’

Churches are getting better at coffee. We’re a long way from seeing the end of International Roast at the end of a service but more and more churches have made the switch to coffee machines and offering hospitality (at least in terms of coffee) on a par with anywhere else in the local community. But are church cafés merely a convenience for believers to be able to enjoy a brewed coffee on the cheap whilst having a post church service catch up? Is the café simply an enhancement to your church building?

We place a great deal of importance in our church buildings, and quite rightly so. Baptist churches across Australia have buildings that serve multiple purposes and are a community asset. Communities value building space that can host a variety of community services. However, despite this only a small fraction of our local communities ever set foot on our church properties.

What about the people who never walk through your doors? Do you have a plan to reach them? To let them encounter the ministry of your church through other physical locations?

One particular church in Wellington, New Zealand, has invested in a building in the local community where they can combine enterprise, outreach and empowering people living on the margins. They name their church ‘The Local‘, which is a play on words usually used to describe the local pub (Your Local – not your usual..)

 

Their philosophy is summed up by them as follows:

      1. the idea of being a local church that was actually based in the community – literally trying to follow Jesus’ command to go instead of waiting for the world to come, and…
      2. having some fun with the obvious play on words with the classic idea of ‘the local,’ as your local pub – the meeting point and watering hole for the local community.
In addition to the name, the treasure map and ‘x-marks the spot’ icons are intended to signal that the life of the kingdom is a treasure (Matt 13) that we are all invited to find. We recognise that The Local itself is NOT the treasure. If your ‘map’ leads you through The Local, we hope your time with us will help you find the treasure that is your inheritance in Him.
The Local has established a café in town that serves a number of purposes. Apart from the obvious purpose of providing healthy, affordable coffees and lunches and being the church present in the heart of the community the café helps make a difference to lives by providing those looking to enter the workforce with hospitality training and real world work experience.

A sign on the café table explains the philosophy behind ‘The Local’

The church has even thought about the unfortunate reality that many people in our community face: loneliness. The café provides people with the opportunity to sit around a big table eating food with others.

Most churches will have people with a range of skills and experience that can make ventures like this happen. It’s an excellent way of harnassing the the potential of what God has gathered in your church – His provision to not just your church but your community. The key question is whether or not this potential will ever be tapped? Or will most of it be locked up in a consumer approach to church?

These little community hubs are an excellent way for the local church to diversify and inject itself into the heart of the community. Through different formats that are relevant to particular contexts, the church can connect with people that it usually doesn’t meet through it’s main congregation. Some church plants of course choose to establish church in this format, rather than being an outreach from a larger church. For some churches this is will be the only church building, ever.

These kinds of ventures don’t have to carry great risk. You aren’t talking about a half million dollar coffee franchise fit out here. The rent can be fairly reasonable and the venture can utilise volunteers to lower costs and risk.