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Picnic table in church garden

What if your church property became the heart of your neighborhood? What if designing a space to be shared by your community was the open door for the Spirit to change hearts?

Many churches have spent thousands of dollars renovating the insides of their church buildings to be warm, welcoming, hospitable places. However, one of the things we’re learning is that most American adults will never (or rarely) enter these buildings—at least until they have a relationship with someone on the inside. The image neighbors have of your church is based on what they see when driving or walking by. 

This reality has inspired me to think about “placemaking.” Placemaking, the process of creating a public space that brings people together for living, working, playing, or learning, could help us reimagine the use of church property. The Project for Public Spaces says that effective placemaking must begin with a collective vision—an opportunity for neighbors to listen to one another as they imagine how this space could serve the community.   

Placemaking could be a missional practice: to listen to neighbors about what they need and desire, to gather with our neighbors in communities where they experience the love of Christ, and to use these spaces to develop relationships with neighbors with whom we can share the good news of Christ. Unlike expensive building projects, placemaking often values lighter, quicker, and cheaper options.

Check out this list of 27 ideas that could seed your own community conversation about placemaking.

Written by Amy Schenkel, Resonate's regional mission leader for the Great Lakes region.