The church is not a building. However, in our 4-season climate, a building is a pretty important for any ekklesia gathering. We set out to find some locations in Neepawa where we might be able to meet as church - but in a town of 4000 people, our options aren't nearly as plentiful than if we were in a larger centre.
We wanted to run all possible locations through a matrix of criteria:
We quickly realized that purchasing a building brings with it a cost way too high to bring any building up to the standards that we want or need for a church function. Commercial real-estate in Neepawa isn't too expensive, but with a renovation we'd end up dumping twice as much money into a building than what it is worth.
This led us down the path of examining other public meeting spaces and ultimately, eyeing up what it means to meet in a public school. However, with the first phone call, we weren't met with the warmest embrace...
In this small rural school district, the board has never had a request for a church to meet in one of their schools so the initial conversation had all of the awkwardness as a jr.high dance where a grade 7 boy finally gets up the nerve to stop leaning against the wall with all the other grade 7 boys and walks across the popular girl who has no idea that this poor little boy even existed, let alone wants to dance with her.
Follow up emails and conversations had us speaking with less awkwardness, but still some hesitation about what this dance might end up looking like. I think that there is fear that as soon as we agree to dance, the DJ will play Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses, and we'll be locked in a passionate slow dance with the popular girl immediately regretting the decision and ever fearful of wandering hands...
To reduce this fear, we are putting together a proposal for the school board that will outline our plans, ideas and vision for where we see the church playing a vital role in the life of the community and how we could possibly end up blessing the school with our presence. That isn't scheduled to happen until late-August.
From now until then, I will be trying to contact as many churches that meet in schools as possible to accumulate success stories of this partnership to add to our proposal. We'll be praying a lot about this and also doing our best to put together an appealing and functional proposal.
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.