Scoot Over

We are transitioning into stewardship season here at Foothills, and I’m still thinking about the neighbors. Mostly because they have taken over our facility, and there’s literally no room for new church programs. This has been an ongoing struggle around here, but I had an especially unpleasant night of it last night, and seem to be on a rant today.  One day soon, there will be an aerobics class in my office, and a pottery-poetry-cheese-making club gathered in the bathroom. Enough.

I will spare you the details of last evening. What I want to process instead is how well we–all of us–share what God has given us. In thinking about shared space at the church, most of us consider it a real ministry, to share our facilities with neighbors who need someplace to gather. Whether its a scout troop, AA, or a dance class that’s lost its home to city budget cuts, we open our doors wide. We ask a refundable deposit, and a small donation to keep the lights on. Our home is yours.

But that gets more complicated when the donations are no longer enough to keep the lights on, or when, pardon me, our neighbors act like church groups are in their way. I want to say “But its OURS!” I feel like stomping my foot when I say it too, but resist. Because a little voice inside my head says, “OURS must include God. This is God’s space, and we are its care-takers.”

So, that in mind, how do we use it to be good neighbors? Does it mean sitting quietly in a corner and never starting a new ministry? Well, no. But, if we are living on God’s terms of use, it does mean that we are not just land-owners, but stewards, as well. Perhaps it is time re-evaluate what we give away, and to whom.  The way that we share our space–God’s space–should reflect how we share what God has given each of us.

Here are two good criteria for using your time, talents and treasures in a way that honors the Holy. That which is life-giving…and that which you can live without.

If a group that gathers here changes people’s lives in a way that the church is not equipped to do, then let them come. If a group that gathers here meets in a time and place that we could not otherwise use, let them come. Who’s left? Well, those folks might be getting a phone call from me pretty soon.  And if its some of the same folks who are unplesant to deal with, well, then I will try not to enjoy it too much. 

Now, ask these questions in your own life, of your own “stuff,” your own gifts for service, your own time. What do you have to offer that is life-giving in a unique way? What has God given you that your church or community really needs a part of? And, what do you have that you can live without?

If those questions are not shaping the priorities in where you spend your time and money, it might be time to make a few phone calls of your own. What has God given you that is life-giving? And what can you live without?

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • Jimmy

    Yes, I could see the frustration last night… I thought that that particular group was less than polite about using the Fellowship Hall.

  • John

    Sounds like it’s time to come up with a building use policy and fee structure….something a bit more substantial than just paying for utilities. I’d be happy to assist in development.

  • Jim

    Well, well, well. What a conundrum. Could it be that in our desire to be good neighbors we have instead been mistaken for the community center? A church program should, nay must, take priority over anything else. Would we expect the corner market to give up unused space for a community group without an understanding that the space still belonged to the market if they needed it? Of course not. So, to the group(s) that act as if they own, or at least lease, the space, then it is time to say enough. Follow the rules or find another place. Nuff said

  • jan ehrmantraut

    well done, good lady.

  • Kara Kleinschmidt Fotter

    good one. keep writing.


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