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City Grace Environments

November 14, 2016
Benjamin Spalink

Andy Stanley has some helpful insight on ministry.  All ministry utilizes environments - the physical places and feel of places we use to preach, worship, study, fellowship, serve or in other ways engage our guests. Worship happens in an environment. Community groups happen in an environment. Leader meetings happen in an environment. Stanley's goal is to create "irresistible environments." I'd settle for "winsome." Point is, people love the environments and want to come back. Leaders shape these environments whether they know it or not. Environments are important because they send powerful messages, and oftentimes these messages have more significant staying power than what is preached. Why leave it to chance, Stanley asks.  Indeed, why? When the message of the sermon parallels the message of the environment, then we're in business.

Because we want to work towards diversity, and because we want to be a welcome place for any who are exploring Christianity, we've thought about the following elements as being critical to our ministry environments here in New York:

1) Clean - the space is tidy, clean, organized - this communicates a desire for guests to feel comfortable and puts them at ease.

2) Safe - Based on the basic principle of loving your neighbor, safety is a no-brainier.  Anything dangerous or threatening (even emotionally) would simply be a direct contradiction to the message of God's love and grace.

3) Helpful - Our environments are comprehensible, clear and helpful. People know what's expected, where to go, what to do.  Confusion creates stress. 'Helpful' communicates that new guests are expected, valued and welcome.

4) Warm-professional - Leaders are courteous, prepared, organized, and accessible.  Warmth is communicated through appreciation, graciousness and humility.  Combined, these two qualities put people at ease, avoid unnecessary distractions, and make it easier to focus on the essentials.

5) Aesthetically pleasing - Beautiful is attractive. Aesthetics can amplify the message spoken. Attention to detail communicates value and seriousness.  This applies not just to worship music, but to the physical dynamics of anything we do or create.

6) Inclusive and welcoming - Inclusiveness communicates that all are welcome, all are valued, and all are held to be worthy of respect and acceptance.

This is a tool that can be used to engage leaders to think about the spaces they create and utilize to engage in ministry.

(Thanks to Drew Hyun at Hope Church for sharing their ideas, some of which we borrowed.)

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