Bought the House Next Door ... Now What?

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The house next door to our church went into foreclosure and we bought it from the bank (for $14,000). Over the last few years, several ideas have come up that would have involved securing an adjacent or nearby property. So, when the opportunity arose, we put in an offer.

It's a bittersweet thing, however, since the circumstances that we got it were painful — specifically, for our long-time neighbor and more generally, for an area where property values are so depressed. So we're praying that this house will help us be 'a living testimony of God's grace and justice in the city' (our mission statement). And we plan to solicit input from our neighbors on the street.

It seems like a fair number of churches have turned former parsonages or other adjacent properties into ministry of one type or another. We already have ideas, but we're looking for more.

If your church owns a nearby house ... how do you use it for ministry?

Or even if you don't have a nearby house ... what would you dream of doing if God gave you one tomorrow?

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Community Builder

Grace CRC in GR, MI has a house next door to the church.  We use it for a residence for people who are committed to living in community in an urban place, and who want to help Grace be a neighborhood church.  We're in our second year, with about five people in residence most of the time.  Most are students part or full time.  

We would LOVE to talk with others interested in learning about this venture.   We've learned a lot, and we still have a LOT of learning to do!  I assume you are familiar with Calvin College's Project Neighborhood.  Be sure to check them out.   And give me  a call!  We'd be glad  to help any way we can.

Admin

An update...in case this helps other churches...

Over the summer and fall, our church gutted and completely renovated the house (with some expert advice from a local housing ministry and some generous donations from local tradespersons). A couple of weeks ago, we had a beautiful service where the house was dedicated. We invited our long-time neighbor's children (now adults) and other family members to the service. It was touching as we witnessed something good come from something so sad.

Our pastor David Kromminga wonderfully tied it all together, preaching on being "restorer of streets with dwellings" (really worth listening to....look for the sermon here dated Nov. 13, 2011). At the end of the service the entire congregation left the building, walked over to the house, surrounded it hand-in-hand, and dedicated the house with prayer, oil, words, and songs. Beautiful.

So what are we doing with it? We're being neighbors.

It will remain a house where people live. In this case, people who feel a special calling to live in intentional community together, be an active part of our neighborhood, and work alongside all of us in doing God's work through the ministries of our church. We commissioned them at the same worship service.

We're calling it the "House of Servants" and it's modelled in part by what Grace CRC has done as well as other churches and initiatives like Project Neighborhood (see Karl's notes above).

It's still very new, but we're excited. Hopefully this update helps other churches who might feel called to this type of ministry and presence.

P.S. Since then, we've come across another initiative from several neighborhood churches and community/housing organizations that want to partner together to turn abandoned properties into homes. We checked on 3 boarded-up houses on our street and, as it turns out, they're all owned by out-of-state investors/speculators (one purchased for literally $10!). Our church isn't being asked to make any financial commitment - just to help with open houses, welcome baskets, and getting the word out that the properties are available (most don't have for-sale signs). We're going to hear more about it at our council meeting tomorrow night, but we're hoping it's another way our church can be a God-honoring presence in our neighborhood and continue to be 'restorers of streets with dwellings'.

Participant

That's very cool!  Tim.  thanks for sharing, keep us posted.  Love the Is. 58 theme!   One ministry (non-denominational) I'm involved with is renting the parsonage of a crc church, and using it somewhat as a communal living home, but also to host people from around the world as they come to visit people connected with the prayer ministry, or to participate in or "observe" our prayer ministry as it's unique in some ways.  We call the house the "Gatekeeper House" after the gatekeepers King David financed for the temple (I Chron. 26) One amazing couple has been led to live there and oversee all the comings and goings, and it is amazing the richness of diversity we have seen in people flowing through.  They got some of their "training" at the Jesus Haus in Hernnhut, Germany, home of the Moravians.   http://www.czherrnhut.de/jesus-haus/en/ 

there is so much potential... 

hope to listen to the sermon soon =)