The cost-of-living crisis puts immense pressure on communities across the country. Inflation continues to rise, wages are dropping, and utility prices are skyrocketing. Parts of the UK are in a drought as water reserves drop, combined with a lack of rain and ageing infrastructure. Moreover, the question often asked is how can the church support those impacted by these adverse circumstances?
I still believe that community engagement is the best way to show relevance to our neighbours. Yet, it is here that we find the tension because the backbone of any church support is our members, pastors, and the local church. Nevertheless, they are also severely affected by increasing costs and depreciating wages. So then, the question we might ask instead, is how can we support our communities while easing the pressure on our members facing the same challenges?
I believe that in unprecedented times, we may need to change the paradigm of how we can make an impact. But that requires bold faith. That is to step out into the unknown and face the challenges associated with trying something different for the sake of the Gospel. Those are strong words, but what might that look like in practice? Walk with me as I share an example with you.
I recently met a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. We were talking about church and paradigm changes, and they shared an idea: what if we purchase buildings as community centres first and worship spaces second? That idea got me thinking about how that might work. Right now, some churches may not realise their dream of purchasing a building in this generation. Also, there are geographical locations where two or three churches are worshipping near each other. Some are even worshipping in the same rented building. What would it look like if three churches in such a situation pooled their resources to purchase a multi-room community centre? ‘Church A’ could galvanise its members and run a food bank on Mondays. ‘Church B’ would take Tuesdays and run a playgroup. Wednesday would be a prayer meeting. Where each church could come together, or if their church cultures require something specific, they could each take a room. Thursday would belong to ‘Church C’, and Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays would be free for worship.
The benefit of this idea is that each church benefits from its building. The community would benefit from a community centre open most days of the week, where we would regularly provide the services needed to support people through these challenging times.
Additionally, because three churches are working together, there is reduced burdens placed on individual members and their pastors. The downsides may consist of conversations around how the building would be managed and what would happen if one church wanted to leave. Yet, bold faith and creative thinking require us to find solutions to such problems.
To be clear, I am not suggesting this is the only way to support churches and communities in the cost-of-living crisis. It is just a demonstration of creative thinking and a willingness to demonstrate bold faith. If we were to engage in prayer, brainstorming and seeking ways to collaborate, we would find much better solutions. Why not start a conversation today?
Pastor Max McKenzie-Cook currently serves as the director for Community Services, Diversity and Prison Ministry with South England Conference