Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a 3-part series geared toward helping church plants and their pastors communicate more effectively by connecting to the community they’re trying to reach.
A church planter looks for two different spaces when praying over a new work. Where will we meet, and where will I work from? There was a time where the church office was the hub of all our communications. People called the office phone (cell phones have made this moot). They walked in off the street to find a listening ear (more on this later). We do need a space where we can be found, a place where we can comfort the hurting. But that doesn’t need to be an established church office. Where we choose to have our office communicates much to our people and our community.
The Options to a Homeless Pastor
Some pastors choose to rent office space. They put the church sign out front and call that their physical footprint in the community. That is not always a great plan. You are putting a big monthly bill on the church, and you now must have staff at the building when someone comes. Having your midweek office in a different place than your Sunday gathering location can create confusion. This doesn’t increase communication, but rather decreases it.
You could have a home office. This is doable, but also not always a great plan. If you have little kids they are going to want to be with you. Daddy is home and they want his attention. Not only that but when your office is at your home you may find it difficult to keep home and work separate. A lot of people struggle with a work-life balance, and pastors are no different. These roles will bleed into each other. Personally, I like coming home at the end of the day and my family knowing I am with them—both physically and emotionally. This separation allows for there to be boundaries and distinctions in our everyday living. Without this distinction, both our families and our people may not know when they have our full attention. This again results in muddled communication.
Some church planters consider this lack of an office a curse, but it may be a blessing. Many pastors spend the majority of their time in their church buildings. Of course there is Sunday. But there is often midweek gathering, hours of operation, appointments, and walk-ins. When I pastored an established church I would spend upwards of 80% of my week in the church building. But that makes the building a temple, and the masses of lost people outside must journey to this temple in order to know God.
As a “homeless” church planter (someone without a physical building or office) I have found a great opportunity. Instead of creating an office on my turf, or at my home, I have the privilege to set up my office on the turf of the people in my community. The entire community becomes my office. I begin using the community’s space as an office. Let me tell you what this brings.
3 Reasons Being Office-less Helps You Communicate Better
First, there is the power of presence. Jesus said that we are the light of the world. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but places the lamp on a stand where everyone can see it. Staying in the church building all week is like hiding that light! And being out in the community on their turf brings the light of Jesus into the darkness. You, a light bringer, are now interacting and building relationships on the community’s turf. That light is with you. Who knows how many divine appointments you may run into just being where the people are.
Second, you get to know your neighborhood or town. If you are a church planter in a new area, you want to know the citizens of your new home. You want to know the roads and places. By officing in a common space, you are going to run into people who make the town go. By being “homeless,” you get to live in other people’s “houses.” You get to know them, hear about what they care about, what obstacles to faith they face, and what issues are most pressing to your community. I have known many pastors who have become so insulated from the world around them that they have no idea who they are preaching to anymore. I know pastors who are still preaching to the battles they discovered during Bible college, and the common person has no idea what they are saying.
A third reason you should consider remaining homeless is because the people you are trying to reach are spiritually homeless. You know who comes to church on Sunday—church folk. Every year our culture becomes more and more pagan. Spiritual, but not religious; No religious affiliation. Culture is more secular and agnostic in their thinking; They are not seeking after God. Our cool bands and clever sermon series are not drawing people in. They don’t even know they need to be saved. If you were to conduct officework 8 hours a day among non-church folk, you would begin to create friendships. There are going to be conversations. And you are going to do the very thing you claim you want to do—make disciples. This is not merely babysitting sheep. This is charging the gates of hell. You are doing the work of an evangelist. You are doing the hard, time-intensive, heart-giving, soul-praying work of being Christ to another.
Where you conduct your office communicates much. If you choose to be “homeless,” you communicate to your people that we are called to be in the world. You communicate to your community that you are for them and near them. Use this inconvenience as an opportunity to be the minister you have always wanted to be.