It’s common for start-up organizations to commence their projects in a business incubator – offices that host and collaborate with early stage ventures. This article by Judy Wiley reminds us that churches can be incubators as well.
Note: THIS IS NOT ABOUT HELPING CONGREGATIONS PAY THEIR BILLS.
Today, there are countless congregations “hosting” immigrant congregations, yoga classes, preschools, food banks, and all manner of non-profits – charging monthly rent – for the purpose of helping to offset costs. This is not what I’m talking about.
True incubators exist to spur innovation, sustain new life, and strengthen fragile ventures. Notice this key sentence in the article about Gaston Oaks Baptist Church and their efforts to generate new ministries: “Older, white church members smile widely and get up to greet their fellow worshippers.” This says it all:
- “older white church members” – this is the demographic for most of the mainline congregations in the United States
- “smile widely” – they are genuinely happy to have brothers and sisters join them who are not older and white
- “get up” – they are respectful
- “to greet” – they are authentically hospitable
- “their fellow worshippers” – they are together as one. This is not an “us” and “them enterprise.
Eventually, they hope, they will leave a legacy by transforming their church into a kind of incubator for immigrant congregations as well as a home for nonprofit ministries, including a major low-income health center. This is what it looks like to make disciples.
How is your spiritual community incubating new ministries?
Can you name at least three new ministries that are being nurtured and nourished from the incubator that is your church building/Presbytery office/chaplaincy office?
And, individually speaking, how are we individually acting as incubating partners/mentors to those who have calls and dreams to make a difference in the world? It’s one thing to tutor a child, but it’s another thing to shepherd that child to reach her goals. It’s one thing to serve dinner at a shelter, but it’s quite another to befriend an unemployed man and coach him towards employment.
This is what the thriving 21st Century Church looks like. If we are not incubating new possibilities, our future as institutional churches seems tenuous.