I met an interesting congregation on one of my teaching trips. They call themselves “The Oregon Community.”
They were a recent church plant with an intense focus on meeting the needs of their local community. Outgrowing a rented facility gave a whole new opportunity for the church to link itself to the community.
Because their ideas were so far outside the box, no denominational monies could fund a move. This just drove them to color further outside the lines.
Several people in the church ponied up the money to purchase an older two-story building in this regenerating part of Portland, Oregon. With a clean slate and a new building, the leadership asked the surrounding community what a church could do for them. The answers were surprising.
The upstairs part of the facility is now called “The Village Ballroom.” The church uses it on Sundays, and it is rentable by the community the rest of the week (When we finished our seminar, a local Buddhist group began setting up for a party). It is available as “A community gathering space for performance, dance, special events, conferences, classes, and workshops.”
But others have created community centers before.
This church also runs a non-profit daycare center and a non-profit pub. Yes, a pub. And they do serve alcoholic beverages.
I was told that the three “unusual elements” surrounding the use of the facility all arose from a neighborhood block party the congregation threw to introduce themselves to the community. They simply asked, “What can a church do to make a better neighborhood? The responses were new, unique and effective.
Another factor working in this equation is Portland itself. The city is focusing on neighborhood development in new ways. They’ve divided the area into 43 “boroughs” to de-emphasize a “big city” feeling. In light of this, smaller, neighborhood-oriented churches look like the wave of the future.