We have been without a Church Centre since April when we left Ross Parade. Ross Parade was a great Church Centre for us albeit with some significant limitations. These included the fact that it was too small for most ministries and many meetings (e.g. PCC and Cell Leaders meetings). On the other hand it was large enough for our staff team and it was accessible for the church to access.
Since April we have created a “virtual” office – Staff meetings and staff prayers are being held at my house, staff have generally worked out of their homes.
This has generally worked well although it has not been without its side effects – access to the church photocopier is obviously more limited because it is based at Nigel’s house. It has also meant that meetings between staff have had to be planned and organised and it has impacted their homes.
On the other hand what we are seeing is the effect on some of our ministries. Without worrying about “are we making best use of the centre” we are focussing on where it would be best to hold a ministry. For example, what was the Drop In on a Monday morning held at the centre is now Café Connect held at Wallington Library Café. We have seen a very substantial increase in numbers coming and we are seeing the first tentative connections with other users of the café.
We had already saw a bit of this with using caffé Nero for Alpha and this time we are planning to use Holy Trinity for Alpha and the Marriage Course. We are seeing it with ministries like the MiX where we had over 80 young people coming to the MiX in September.
We seem to be seeing vitality in ministries where we are looking to use the most appropriate place for the ministry and not trying to fit our building in with the ministry and thereby making too many compromises. It also means that our ministries are being held in places that are seen as “neutral” and where people are comfortable coming to – such as the Library Café or the Phoenix Centre or a school.
In one sense all of this was understandable. A Church Centre can cost a considerable amount of money. In our case Ross Parade was very reasonable and cost us under £10,000 per annum; but because it was more than an office there was a sense in which we wanted to try and use it – yet even for meetings such as the PCC it was a real squash and it meant that people coming into to it could feel that it was not neutral territory.
At the staff away days in July we spent some time looking at what we had learnt already and what we believed that God was saying to us. We were somewhat surprised to see that we believed that we shouldn’t be looking for a centre. Rather the real needs appeared to do much more with access to an office, shared space for staff, guarding against isolation, access to appropriate equipment etc.
A couple of weeks ago, Bill appeared to identify an office (to the left of Pizza Express shown above) that seems to be ideal for our use:
- It is currently configured for five desks (already provided) which would ensure that staff can use this as a base without worrying about space.
- It is located in a central location (just next to Pizza Express) with easy parking either outside or in Sainsbury or in one of the roads off Stafford Rd. This will mean easy access to staff and members of Springfield
- It will allow us to move the office equipment into a central location (a corollary is that we would aim to either use or dispose of all the equipment that is currently in storage)
- It will give us a shared workspace for staff ensuring good communication and integration.
- It will allow members of Springfield to drop things off – whether photocopying for cells or ministries or indeed pick things up
- The financial cost is less than for Ross Parade – £6240 per annum, fully inclusive (paid monthly) – with a rolling annual contract – meaning that unlike Ross Parade we are not locked in to the office. If we need/want to move we can do so.
- It will keep the focus on using the right place for the right ministry.
There are some things that we can’t do with it:
- Ministries will need to be held elsewhere
- It isn’t a space that we can use for counselling or for meetings – these will need to be arranged for elsewhere
- It doesn’t help us for “days of prayer” which we still need to find a strategy for.
I am really excited to say that the PCC agreed last night that we should take this office. Bill will be signing the contract today and handing over the deposit. We expect to move in October (the date is dependent on when the current users move out – expected at the end of this month or beginning of next).
A huge thank you to the staff for working without a central space for the last six months.