Congregations & Cafes
“If the kingdom of God had departments, we’d want to work in research and development,” says Mark Batterson in a New York Times piece by Amy O’Leary (12/30/12). Mark is pastor of the 3,000-member National Community Church in Washington, DC, which holds its Sunday services “in six locations, mostly movie theaters, where the smell of Saturday night’s popcorn hangs in the air as pre-recorded sermons play on the big screen. The church also runs a coffee shop called Ebeneezers … where its religious affiliation is hard to detect.” With music emanating from the basement during services, patrons often wander downstairs to investigate, and then become members.
As Mark explains: “We felt like Jesus didn’t hang out at the synagogue, he hung out at the wells … Coffeehouses are postmodern wells. Let’s not wait for people to come to us, let’s go to them.” Mark now “has plans to franchise Ebeneezers, first in Charlotte, NC. ” His venture is part of a trend toward “church planting,” which seems to hold particular appeal among younger generations of pastors and congregants alike. Warren Bird of the Leadership Network, which tracks church trends, says it’s “uncool” among new ministers to join an established church.
“Why that has taken over may speak to the entrepreneurialism and innovation that today’s generation represents.” The Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Texas is expanding into small, satellite spaces “that can operate seven days a week, with services like child care, shared office space and a community theater.” Paul Miller, its pastor of ministries, says its about “building a community center, more than … a worship center.” Houston Clark, who designs spaces for churches, says he’s seen a definite trend toward smaller spaces, like warehouses, saying that younger people “crave intimacy and authenticity. They want high-quality experiences, but don’t necessarily want them in huge, voluminous buildings.”