Bridging Congregation and Community - Issue #108
Lenk United Methodist Church gathers for worship above what is now the Restaurant Löwenzentrum Lenk (noted for its pizza!) in Lenk, Switzerland. Lenk, a small community of 5,000 year-round residents, doubles in size every winter during the ski season.
This congregation of mostly older adults and a few younger families with children tried an experiment in partnership with a young deacon committed to fulfill his call to connect the church and the world. What would it look like they wondered together, if the congregation were to use the restaurant space below its gathering space as an intentional ministry center during the winter tourist season? Specifically, what if this space were to become a blues pub?
It was a daring question. And it required some daring thinking, praying, and cooperation. The church had previously rented out the space to other groups, but it had not claimed it as a ministry site. Some wondered if they were really ready to use the space in a way that required them to be involved in a more hands-on way with people who were not from the community and were not like them.
The congregation began with prayer. They pledged to pray for the workers and the people coming to the pub every day and during Sunday worship. After praying for a while, they got another idea. The children of the church could help decorate placemats for every table. Then some of them volunteered to help with cleaning, and others began to help out in other ways.
It was a short-term project, only four months. Since the crowd was almost entirely tourists, none of them became members of the congregation, though a few did visit while they were in town. But for the congregation and the deacon who helped them, trying to increase the number of members was not the point. The point was opening their own hearts to connect with these temporary neighbors.
Some Questions for Discussion
- How might you partner with deacons in your area to develop creative ministries that would connect the congregation (both people and space) with the wider world?
- How is your congregation helping to connect members with people who are not like themselves, and who may never join the congregation?