Three ways to be a church for Monday
A week has 168 hours. People spend on average only one hour at church on Sunday morning. What about the other 167 hours spent primarily at work, but also at home, and in a world intolerant of Christians, embracing other truths but opposing the truth of the Bible, enamored with narratives but rejecting the narrative of Jesus? What type of church prepares for that type of world?
The waning state of faith in young adults, the decreased attendance and weakened generosity trends, and a growing desire for person-to-person interaction amidst high-tech connections all point to a significant decline in both church attendance and tithes and offerings. Church, as it has been, will require re-envisioning. If Jesus tarries, what type of church will thrive, not just survive, in the following decades?
A model for the future
I believe the future church will be gospel-translating, experience-based, and Spirit-evident, with small congregations that grow from conversions, not church transfers. Its clergy will likely be co-vocational and willing to equip believers for their lives on Monday. It will be embedded in the marketplace, dually-using their facilities for the flourishing of the community and for their own sustainability.
The community will know the church because the church will be a part of the community — not above it, beside it, or beyond it. If anyone thinks to ask the trite question, “Will you miss the church on the corner if it closes its doors?” people will say, “Yes. I will miss that church because it trains us for meaningful work, guides us in starting new businesses, helps us make wise decisions, teaches us creative entrepreneurship, and equips us for loving parenting without insisting we first believe.”
Sadly, this is rarely the answer we hear. Most pastors I know work long hours with little pay to make that kind of a difference in their broken communities. So the question is not if pastors desire a marketplace impact but how to lead churches that make a lasting impact not only on weekends but on weekdays, too. How do we get there from here?
Three main components of a church for Monday
An increasing number of churches are thinking creatively and preparing strategically for mission on Monday as they develop both compassion and capacity to flourish their communities. So, what does “Church for Monday” look like? Is intentionally integrated faith into work, economics, and entrepreneurship expressed in the same way across the local churches in our country? The answer is that churches for Monday are as varied as the richness of their theological premises and the unique contexts they serve, but they all have three key elements: gospel-translating, whole-life discipling, and embedding into the economy.
Embedded in the economy
Before I describe what I mean by “embedded in the economy,” I want to affirm what we all know well — we are saved through a person, not a program. So, when we look at what we are facilitating through a church for Monday model, I’m not advocating for programs but for creative ways we can form authentic communities where both the unchurched and the churched can enter and deepen a transforming relationship with Jesus.
We care for the people in our communities if we grow and strengthen their family’s economic life. It is my conviction that in order to be an impactful, 21st century church, we need to connect the gospel of the kingdom with economics. Otherwise, our witness weakens, and our cities and our future will lack because we cannot separate God’s formative grace from the main seedbed of culture — the economy.
Being an embedded-in-the-economy church means that such a church intentionally flourishes the economy as a gathered and scattered community. It is a given that the scattered church adds value to the economy through the members’ vocations — when believers work they grow the GDP. Marketplace-embedded churches go one step further and look for ways to grow the economy as a gathered community as well. They become revenue-generating and add to the local economy by resourcing the creation of sustainable, tax-generating, charity-giving jobs and businesses; offering jobs as an employer and training for employment.
Gaining trust through economic value
Communities are often reluctant to let a church in, either to rent or build because they see the church as not adding proactively to the economy. Most malls, shopping plazas, and similar public spaces shy away from letting churches rent at their sites because the church doesn’t attract clients that add to their economic well being. There is an unspoken understanding that church is allowed in shopping malls if these places are in a downturn and cannot keep any other tenants. But marketplace-embedded churches often regain trust in their communities as they add economic value, get to know the names and stories of the neighbors who work around them, and are welcomed to establish their presence in desirable public spaces.
Here are some practical ways through which pastors can begin to change the perception of their churches as a viable economic actor in the marketplace:
- Offer seed capital for new businesses launched by church members and sympathizers to faith;
- Facilitate business training based on godly virtues and biblical principles of leadership;
- Underwrite college scholarships for business degrees for the church’s youth and youth from distressed communities;
- Financially and academically support under-resourced youth who will be the first in their families to seek a college education by offering capital and tutoring; and
- Sponsor youth entrepreneur leadership programs to assure next-generation small business owners.
Although churches equipping for Monday develop both adults and kids, they are especially attuned to fostering next-generation creativity because kids and teens are the workforce of tomorrow and our emerging leaders. If we shape their understanding of what ministry looks like and where ministry takes place, future generations might successfully close the gap between church and the marketplace. In developing the entrepreneurial acumen in both adults and kids to see future opportunities in the markets and to launch valuable endeavors, the church unleashes human potential and teaches believers to partner with God, the Ultimate Entrepreneur. In so doing, we participate in God’s providence and creative work in the world.
At Real Life, the church I started and pastor in Midlothian, Virginia, we have embraced the biblical mandate for work and creativity and the importance of fostering next-generation creativity and have developed a hands-on entrepreneurial program that teaches the value of work, faith, and innovation. For kids, we offer Real Life KidPreneurs and for teens Real Life TeenPreneurs. In this program, elementary, middle, and high school students are trained in entrepreneurship in eight modules during the year. Students develop business plans and present them to friends from the community in a “Shark Tank” environment. For adult entrepreneurs we offer business training and speaking coaching.
These are some of the ways we embed ourselves in the economy by developing young entrepreneurs who start new businesses and helping business owners scale up. When churches for Monday open their doors every day of the week and not just on Sunday, they impact their community. This has worked well for us, and I hope that our ways spark your imagination and that you will discover additional ways to address the 8-to-5 Monday-to-Friday window. How do you envision your church embedding itself in the marketplace and fostering next-generation creativity?
Editor’s note: This article is an adapted excerpt from Svetlana Papazov’s new book, Church For Monday: Equipping Believers for Mission at Work.Topics: Church and Ministry, Church Mission, Mission & Outreach, Social Entrepreneurship