On Thursday, we’re running the fourth instalment of our venerated coworking space! On the first Thursday of each month we create a popup office in the Northridge foyer. People who would otherwise be working from home (be it ‘work work’, uni, life admin, or whatever else needs doing on a Thursday) get together to drink free coffee and be productive together. But aside from the obvious social calendar benefits… why would we want to run a coworking space? How does it contribute to our mission as a community? And to the kingdom of God?
The big picture of mission
In order to answer these questions, we need to take a brief step back and think about exactly what we mean when we talk about mission. Typically when you say the ‘m’ word, it calls to mind overseas building projects, serving in a soup kitchen, or maybe praying for healing in the streets. To be clear, ALL of these things are wonderful examples of God’s mission. But mission can be much broader than that.
I like the way Mike Frost defines mission—he says that it is “both the announcement and the demonstration of the reign of God“. In other words, it’s what we do in response to the incredible revelation of Jesus as humanity’s saviour. It means looking at the way things are, looking at the glorious future promised to us in God’s eternal kingdom, and partnering with Jesus’ plans to make up the difference.
Evidently, that’s a pretty big gap. So, if we’re not going to become completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem… where do we start?
Just one way could be to bring a few simple questions before the Lord, and see what he has to say:
- What are some of the problems in our proverbial backyard that aren’t being addressed right now?
- What are the resources (skills, finances, assets, etc) we have on hand that we can contribute towards solving these problems?
- How can we serve our neighbourhood in a way that builds meaningful, sustainable relationships with those currently outside the church?
- Can we do something that anyone (or at least most people) in our community could be involved in?
When we stop thinking about mission in general terms and start asking what it looks like on our street, with our people, a different picture starts to emerge.
Coworking as mission
Since beginning to lead the Evening Community, Jen and I have been asking questions like the ones above. We have felt strongly that we want to serve our neighbourhood, but we never wanted to jump into something without God’s leading. Of course, we have loved serving with RAW in Cambodia, and contributing to Storehouse—these aren’t going anywhere! But we’ve wanted to start something that is distinctly Evening.
One of the problems we’ve become aware of that is very close to home is loneliness. It’s surprising to think that in an increasingly ‘connected’ world, people are becoming increasingly isolated as they live and work from home.
Another issue we’re aware of is the knock-on with housing affordability and urban sprawl. There are a lot of people in our neighbourhood who work long hours in the city—add in a 45-60 minute commute each way, and makes it difficult for them to spend time with their families.
Perhaps the strongest resource we have in the Evening Community is… well, the community. We have a thriving, vibrant community of people who love like family and look out for each other.
Another incredible gift we have at Northridge is our facility. We’ve got a fast internet connection and a gorgeous space that doesn’t get used much during the week.
When you put two and two together, it makes a lot of sense to create a popup work space in our church home. It’s high on relationship, and low on difficulty. Add to that the newfound appreciation workplaces have for remote working (thanks, COVID-19!) and it just may be a thing.
Of course it doesn’t work for everyone, and this isn’t the only way we want to love our neighbourhood moving forward. But it’s something, and we feel the Lord might be in it.
Moving forward… what next?
The first step (surprise!) is to learn how to run a productive coworking space. It’s not a social gathering, it’s a workplace, so we need to do everything we can to help people be productive—while also facilitating relationship growth. Starting simple, starting small.
Once we’ve got the formula down, we want to start opening it up to people outside the community. This probably means inviting our friends who work from home, but there’s no reason we couldn’t make it available beyond our immediate networks. The hope is that it will form its own following, symbiotic with the community, which becomes a wide open door into church life.
Longer term, I wonder whether we could take what we’ve learned and help other churches to replicate our model. The way society is trending, it looks like WFH will become more and more common. This seems like a simple, sustainable way for churches to use their existing resources to love their neighbourhoods.
In the meanwhile, the best way to get behind the coworking space is to come along! Even if just for a few hours. Invite your friends, bring your work, and let’s see where God wants to take this.