This coming Sunday we are going to do something we typically don't. We're going to give the entire message over to talking about some key ideas that will shape the future of who we are as a church. For the past year our membership has been working toward paying off our outstanding debt in the quest to be debt free for the first time in over 35 years. As of this writing our estimated completion date is August of this year, a full year ahead of our original schedule. But paying off the debt was never an end unto itself, but rather a means to the end of freeing us up financially to address other needs we have as a church. And so the oft-asked question has been "What comes next?"
As my tenure at UBC has grown so has my understanding of who we are as a church and where we should be trying to go. And really, the first step in knowing what to do next is knowing who we are trying to be. Churches, like people, have personalities and identities that set them apart. For us, thanks in part to our location and to our history, UBC's identity points toward the personality of a neighborhood / community-driven church. This may not sound significant to some, but when you compare the decisions made by neighborhood churches with those made by larger mega-churches, you can begin to notice some distinctions.
For example, most church's target demographic is usually those living within a 5-20 minute drive radius. At UBC, where we are not located on or near a major highway or interstate, that radius is smaller than it would be for a church located differently. And while this characteristic may be limiting in some respects, when you consider the number of people living within that drive radius to UBC, you'll see that our location is as much an opportunity as it is a limitation.
If we identify ourself as a neighborhood church where community life matters greatly, then we need to start asking the question, "Do our facilities enable us to fully realize this facet of who we are?" If you consider worship and Bible study space, the answer is most likely yes, but if you consider gathering space (i.e. foyer, welcome center, hallways, etc.) and recreational space (i.e. outdoor activities or cafe-style space for meeting, visiting, etc.) then the answer is clearly no. And if you then consider how important those latter areas can be for a church that wants to invite its members to spend time together apart from and around the traditional meeting times, as well as invite our neighbors to join us in doing so, the next steps we should take as a church become clear.
I could say more, but I'd like to keep this entry short enough to be readable. So if you want to know some specifics that our church leadership (both staff and laity) have been working on, you'll just have to join us for worship on Sunday. Come with an open mind and an eager heart, both bent on maximizing our influence in reaching the Bay Area community where God has planted us.