First United Methodist Church of Miami was Audrey’s second pastoral appointment. She left a deeply challenging and meaningful missional ministry in South Miami to come to the big, shiny downtown church and find some rest, security and stability. She thought.
It didn’t take long to notice that the exterior cross was not shiny but rusty, the roof was leaking, and the sanctuary pulpit had been eroded by termites. The building maintenance list was twice as long as the hospital visit list. So much for rest!
This is the reality of most of our beloved “Old First Churches.” Because First Churches — often, the first of their denominations to be established in a city — are in strategic locations and have significant influence, they have long drawn the attention of observers.
In 1974, Ezra Earl Jones and Robert Wilson wrote a book titled “What’s Ahead for Old First Church?” In their research, they focused on the role of the downtown church in the civic, religious and social life of a city, region and denomination. They noted a number of common traits of Old First Churches — quality, prestige and leadership.
And yet reading their work almost 50 years later, we were struck by the undeniable sense that already in the early ’70s the Old First Church was in decline.
The disestablishment of mainline religion was underway; the function of downtown areas was shifting, especially as the suburbs were growing; and the aberrant patterns of convergent and cohesive communities that had occurred in the post-World War II 1950s were giving way to divergent patterns of social life.
Audrey’s church fit this model, which we included in our 2020 book, “Fresh Expressions of People Over Property.” First UMC Miami’s history is deeply linked to its origins as a downtown church with multiple locations, narratives and identities.
Miami is magical, especially at night. This was not the case 126 years ago, when First United Methodist Church was birthed. The location on the Miami River had been occupied for thousands of years by Native Americans and had been visited by Ponce de Leon in the 1500s; the city itself was incorporated in 1896.
At that time, it wasn’t much of a city, comprising wooden structures, mangrove trees and mud. Many of our early members imagined more; the people who built the city were also the founders of White Temple ME Church (in the northern faction of the Methodist Episcopal denomination) and Trinity ME Church South (in the southern one).
Both churches started in houseboats, then upgraded to buildings and eventually erected their sunbathed sanctuaries just two blocks from one another. The churches had been in their new downtown buildings only about 20 years when the northern and southern Methodists reunited.
Although the two churches were now under the same denominational umbrella and less than a mile apart, they never spoke of merging — they were too big. The growth continued until the ’60s and ’70s. But perhaps spurred by a damaging fire at White Temple, the two churches merged in 1966, meeting at the Trinity campus for several years before constructing a new building on Biscayne Boulevard, completed in 1981.
White flight continued, and by the ’90s, most mainline churches in Miami had lost 50% of their membership. Many wondered what was ahead.
Urban theorist Richard Florida has noted that suburbanization “accentuated [the] fissure of urban areas into separate zones for working and living.” Many of our downtown structures were defined and built for an earlier way of life. But church leaders were slow to adapt to change.
Still, adaptation would come. Many downtown churches simply followed their people to the suburbs; as we know, systemic racism was and is a factor in real estate markets.
Alongside the change came a nostalgia for the past — when sanctuaries and Sunday school classes were filled with people, when prominent preachers held esteemed positions in the community, when political and civic leaders of influence sat in the pews and were active as members.
This selective memory does harm to leadership in the present, lowering morale and increasing anxiety and stress.
When Audrey arrived as pastor of FUMC Miami in 2015, some members still identified themselves as “Templers” or “Trinity.” Many carried with them the nostalgia and prestige passed on to them by the ancestors who had built the city and had stayed when so many others left.
Not all were longtime locals, of course. The faithful folks she inherited were from more than 25 countries around the world, and they also embraced FUMC’s identity “in the heart of the city with the city in its heart.”
The men’s group started a powerful ministry with the unhoused. Many members started tutoring at local elementary schools. The church became a leader in Miami’s People Acting for Community Together and took on many social issues downtown. FUMC’s music was far from contemporary, and its sanctuary bore no screens, but each year new people trickled into the church.
Like many bighearted downtown churches across the country, First UMC found that love was not enough to pay the bills and do new things. Solutions such as budget cuts and renting out space helped for only so long. The church was looking at half a million dollars in upgrades, such as improving bathrooms and organ pipes — expenditures that were necessary but did not bring in new people.
For many churches, large property decisions arise from two main drivers: declaration and desperation. First UMC was motivated by both.
The congregation wanted to stay downtown to declare the gospel and serve the homeless. They also were becoming desperate. Audrey spent her first few months at FUMC crunching numbers. How much square footage was used for ministry? How many of the top 25 givers were over 65? (Answer: too many.)
The questions and the data led to a decision: They had to do something.
How could First UMC remain an Old First Church, willing to understand its past and appreciate its traditions, yet discern what in all of that could be released and repurposed for mission in a changed landscape?
The church formed an exploratory development committee, which created a plan and process to partner with a developer. It then sold a little over an acre to a developer who is building two towers on the property. The church will occupy 20,000 square feet on a corner of one building, and the rest of the building will have 696 microunit apartments, 40 of which will be used as a hotel. The second tower will be residential.
The income received from the sale is being used to buy and build the church’s portion of one building. The rest will be in an endowment to fund the church in perpetuity.
The vision is to have a hub in downtown and spokes in the city. The spokes will be created by the missional and faith needs in their locations, such as a new brunch church directed toward the LGBTQ community or missional ministry with veterans.
FUMC of Miami does not want to stop following God where God might lead them now that they are building a beautiful home. Each year, they’re working to live into a new future for their beloved — new — First Church.
In his 1954 poem “Church Going,” English poet Philip Larkin stops by a church and finds himself wondering:
When churches fall completely out of use
What shall we turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Larkin died in 1985, but his poem lives on. And the question it poses is ever more urgent for congregations across America.
Each year, thousands of churches in the United States close their doors and others begin to move toward that decision. While post-pandemic statistics on church closings are not yet available, 2019 estimates placed church closings between 1% and 2% annually, or between 75 and 150 congregations every week.
Even thriving congregations may struggle to maintain buildings that no longer align well with mission and ministry. Often silently, sometimes aloud, pastors and lay leaders and religious support organizations are asking Larkin’s question: What should become of these buildings — what shall we turn them into?
Yet congregations need not feel alone in this struggle, as hard as the struggle may sometimes be. In fact, the problem of church buildings is generating significant conversation and creativity across the American landscape.
The question of what happens to church buildings means different things, of course, depending on context:
A 700-member church in the heart of a depressed Midwestern city faces the triple challenge of declining membership, a campus reflecting decades of deferred maintenance, and spaces that, while plentiful, do not match the congregation’s needs.
A church in a growing Southern city faces a different dilemma. Its longtime neighborhood has become the “it” spot and is now thriving with restaurants, shops and new residents. But the church building is falling apart to the point of being unsafe. Most members no longer live in the neighborhood and have no resources to bring the building back to a useable condition. A quick sale to eager developers would bring in millions for the denomination but give up a key strategic location where ministry is needed.
A congregation out West with a big campus has a thriving ministry and a constant need for more space. At the same time, members are fervently focused on and engaged in mission and outreach in the surrounding city. This has led to dynamic discussions about how to balance “infrastructure needs” with a strong desire to serve the city and deploy as many resources as possible toward that vision.
A small church in rural Maine watches its congregation shrink each year. There is no booming real estate market out its front door. But several community groups use the fellowship hall for meetings, and most members have someone buried in the churchyard.
A 200-member congregation in a Northern city is challenged by a building that, as one member describes, “works for us if you squint really hard.” The building has more space — and maintenance demands — than the congregation needs. And while financially stable now, the church is faced with a giving base that is aging.
A large church moved farther out into the suburbs from its large city several years ago and built a large, cheaply constructed building. Over the next decade, it will cost at least $5 million just to maintain the parking lot, replace the windows and deal with a leaky roof.
For this multitude of challenging contexts, a multitude of groups and organizations stand ready with suggestions and support.
Who can help?
A growing number of independent organizations offer tailored resources and consulting.
For more than 30 years, Partners for Sacred Places, the longest-standing national nonsectarian organization working in this arena, has been helping congregations better understand the architectural, historic and community value of their buildings in order to preserve and use the property for good.
Newer organizations like RootedGood are crafting cohort experiences and human-centered design tools to guide congregations toward new plans for their properties.
Oikos Institute for Social Impact is helping faith communities of color harness the power of their assets and especially their real estate, often their most valuable tangible asset, for community benefit and economic growth.
The Proximity Project is encouraging congregations to understand the built environment of their properties and neighborhoods as essential to mission, drawing on the insights of urban design, development and placemaking.
Some organizations are geographically focused. Bricks and Mortals (which wins the award for best name in a highly competitive field!) focuses on New York City congregations, connecting faith communities with development experts to find sustainable solutions to property woes.
Good Acres, a project of Mission City Renewal, builds collaboration among real estate professionals, investors, community organizers, and church and denominational leaders in San Antonio to help churches realize the full potential of their underutilized property for community good.
Wesley Community Development partners with faith-based organizations and churches in North Carolina.
And north of the U.S. border, both Parish Properties and Trinity Centres Foundation work with congregations in Canada.
Other organizations approach congregations through a specific social concern that repurposed church assets might help address: affordable housing, food security in Black communities, co-working spaces for change makers, ecological land stewardship or venues for artists, to name just a few.
Meanwhile, denominations continue to provide programs like Project Regeneration (Presbyterian Church [U.S.A.]), the Episcopal Parish Network (formerly CEEP) and the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund. They also share resources with one another cross-denominationally, and increasingly engage the growing landscape of independent consultants.
Where can you start?
Larkin’s question, once prescient, now presses. What shall we turn them into? And yet, as all these organizations and consultants will tell you, the first step is not to rush toward a solution — even a solution they might advocate and ultimately help support.
The first step is a set of actions that every church can and should take right now:
- Start a conversation in your congregation about how your building is a tool for ministry and mission.
- Build a wider web of relationships in your community, as those will be essential to any future action.
- Expand your ecclesial imagination about possibilities for the future use of your building.
One of the easiest ways to expand ecclesial imagination is to reflect on what other congregations are doing.
Faith & Leadership offers many articles about church buildings that can start the reflection. Drawing together these and other stories, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving has created the Faithful Generosity Story Shelf, stocked with short vignettes of congregations and other religious organizations who have repurposed their buildings, lands and funds in creative ways. A brief discussion guide offers ways to start the conversation.
You’re not alone in your concern about the future of church buildings, whatever your context. There is a shared sense of the challenge and a growing network of groups with poetic names, ready to respond. Together they offer resources that can lead to a much greater good than Larkin’s worried vision of churches “let … rent-free to rain and sheep.”
In 2019, more than 4,000 churches closed in the U.S.
I was given one of the buildings.
Typically when churches shutter, the property ends up being sold to other congregations or ministries. But I’m not a pastor or a director of a homeless coalition or a community activist. I’m a religion journalist.
Ten years ago, I started an online publication covering faith news and commentary in the Spokane, Washington, area. It’s called SpokaneFāVS, which stands for Spokane Faith & Values, but we nicknamed it FāVS (as in favorite) because we want it to be everyone’s FāV religion news source. That website is why I was given a church. And that property is how my scrappy digital startup came to be a million-dollar news organization.
When I started the site in 2012, I wanted it to be different from Patheos or Beliefnet, which were websites popular with theology geeks like myself at the time. These sites were missing something: community.
Maybe I was being selfish. I wanted to be around the communities I was writing about so I could understand them better, and I hoped others wanted that too. I grew up in a strict religious home that was intolerant of all organized religions, even Christian churches. We isolated by worshipping in our living room and studying teachings about how dangerous all other beliefs were.
Thankfully, I got out of that living room and made my way to a newsroom. Meeting Christians and Muslims and Jews and Buddhists saved me from intolerance, and I had a hunch that journalism could help break down walls for others too.
After I launched the site, it took only a few months to find columnists of all different faith backgrounds and to create a multifaith readership. But I wanted them to talk to each other. The comment section wasn’t good enough. Neither was social media.
I racked my brain. How could an online publication create community? I remember pacing my home office and sticking idea-filled pink and yellow Post-it notes to my wall.
I needed to find a way to bring everyone together offline. Book club? Knitting group? Run club? No, I decided. Coffee is what we needed. (It’s Washington state, after all.)
Then the Newtown shootings happened. A 20-year-old walked into a Connecticut elementary school and killed 20 kids and six staff members.
I reported on how Spokane-area congregations were responding. FāVS columnists wrote about how it affected their faith. Readers responded in the comment section expressing their sadness and confusion, but mostly their outrage.
This was the time to bring people together.
I quickly organized a community forum at a local coffee shop, dubbing the event “Coffee Talk” and titling the discussion “Angry at God.” Five columnists who had written about the shootings agreed to be panelists: a Christian Scientist, a Lutheran, an Episcopalian, a Community of Christ pastor and a Presbyterian.
They sat awkwardly behind two tables I had pushed together in front of a SpokaneFāVS banner I’d taped to the wall. With 10 minutes until the event was set to begin, rows of empty chairs faced them. I thought my idea was a bust.
Anxious, I wandered to the coffee counter in the next room. The line was out the door, and there was a crowd of people waiting for their lattes and mochas and muffins. Christians, Muslims, atheists, seekers and even a few Jews (it was a Saturday morning) began to take their seats.
What followed was a discussion about gun culture, senseless violence, grief, fear, faith. The audience chimed in, sharing personal stories, crying together, comforting one another.
I knew I had to keep these conversations going.
We’ve been doing Coffee Talks since that first one in January 2013. We’ve had conversations about faith and technology, freedom of speech, religious misconceptions, ethical protest, and next we’ll have one on the evil in this world.
Through these monthly forums, I’ve seen ecumenical and interfaith friendships formed. I remember going to the 40th birthday party of one of my Jewish columnists and realizing that almost everyone seated around the table was connected to FāVS. I smiled, knowing that my little website had had a hand in bringing this group together.
Six years after that first Coffee Talk, we had outgrown every coffee shop in Spokane. Finding a venue became a challenge, forcing us to hold the events every other month rather than every month. Still, no matter when or where we held our forums, between 30 and 50 people continued to show up.
We had 40 columnists by now, and although I was working full time as a journalism professor, I was still doing all the reporting, editing and event organizing on my own. I was stretched thin and worried that it was reflected in the content on the website.
Members of Spokane’s Origin Church had watched FāVS grow over the years. The pastor was a columnist for FāVS, and I had done pulpit supply at the church on a few occasions. One day, I got a text from the pastor: “How would FāVS like a building?”
In later conversation, he explained that the Disciples of Christ congregation had decided to close, ending its 133-year history in Spokane. Four years prior, the church had bought a 3-acre wooded property and erected a modest-sized building with a community garden, hoping the new location would attract more members. But the church didn’t grow, and members agreed that they wanted to be good stewards of what they had left.
They believed in our website’s mission and wanted us to have a permanent home for our Coffee Talks. The church offered their property, as well as funding for three years.
I was floored. Sometimes, when web traffic was low or donations didn’t come in, I had felt like giving up. I wondered whether FāVS was making a difference or whether I was holding on too tightly to a dream. But Origin’s offer was a reminder that the safe space we were creating for conversations around faith and ethics mattered. Their belief in me, in SpokaneFāVS, was the fuel I needed to keep going.
I said yes; the FāVS board came up with the idea to use the building as a multifaith community space, which we dubbed the FāVS Center. We held an open house in June 2019, less than a year before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between 2019 and 2022, we were able to provide a worship space for the Hindu community, a Ukrainian Christian congregation and a Bosnian Muslim group, as well as space for other groups who needed it for special events, such as holidays and birthdays.
As you can imagine, it was a terrible time to open a community center. When the pandemic hit, we had to shut our doors and move events online. We kept the manager on staff and continued to pay for utilities and grounds maintenance. Our funds were quickly dwindling.
We realized that the pandemic had changed how people gather. The future was hybrid now. The interfaith center wasn’t going to succeed and was only taking away from our core mission: meaningful religion reporting. By trying to keep the space open, we weren’t being good stewards of the gift we had been given.
After much deliberation and some tears, we decided to sell the FāVS Center. We sought out owners who would value the space as much as we did, and as much as the people of Origin Church had. In the end, we sold the building to a dentist.
Dr. C Dental Partners had helped provide oral health care in Guatemala and hygiene bags to a region in Honduras. They aimed to change the oral health of the Spokane community, and to other communities throughout the nation and the world. The FāVS Center would become their headquarters.
The purchase price was about $900,000, and with the money we still had from Origin and from our recurring donors, FāVS became a million-dollar nonprofit religion news publication. The sale was in July 2022.
What does a niche site like FāVS do with that much money? To find out, I’m back to sticking Post-it notes to the wall, only this time with a consultant, a small staff and a dedicated board contributing ideas. I doubt that our brainstorming will land us a building this time, but my bet is that we’ll find new, creative and engaging ways to bring our readers together once again.
Eight culinary students dressed in black uniforms with chefs’ caps are working carefully at their stations in a spacious commercial kitchen. They’ve already reviewed the proper techniques for cleaning and removing tails from shrimp and cutting fish into filets, best practices for purchasing, and more. Now they’ve prepared and cooked the recipe of the day: cioppino, a classic stew featuring the shrimp and filets along with leeks, in a rich tomato broth similar in color to the students’ red aprons.
As they talk quietly in Spanish, the time comes to present their creations. Culinary instructor and veteran chef Ed McIntosh is not disappointed.
“Beautiful,” he says to one student, studying the stew in a silver-toned pan.
McIntosh offers feedback as he tastes, pulling down his mask to take quick bites.
“Good,” he says to another student, adding a tip to “just watch your shrimp.”
Leadership Education at Duke Divinity recognizes institutions that act creatively in the face of challenges while remaining faithful to their mission and convictions. Winners receive $10,000 to continue their work.
This is a typical day at La Cocina VA, a nonprofit in Arlington, Virginia, that seeks to “use the power of food to create social and economic change in low-income communities.” Founded by Patricia Funegra, the organization works with immigrants, refugees and victims of domestic abuse and other trauma to provide support via job training and placement along with culinary certification.
Though La Cocina VA is not a faith-based organization, it has worked closely with two local churches since its founding. Their collaboration shows how churches can join forces with community organizations to bring about change — offering vital support and partnership to existing innovation rather than independently beginning new church-based ministries. It also provides a model for moving beyond direct service to skill building and community empowerment.
Now housed on land that previously belonged to Arlington Presbyterian Church, La Cocina VA has served more than 200 students in English and Spanish and created relationships with more than 40 food and hospitality partners, including restaurants, markets and hotels. Like many in the food industry over the last two years, the organization also has battled COVID-related challenges, but La Cocina VA has still managed to open an expanded location with a cafe that serves the community.
“We know that we are definitely making an impact in the lives of the people that give us the chance to work with them,” said Daniela Hurtado, the nonprofit’s director of programs and a former chef herself. “There is a huge connection.”
What skills, rather than services, are needed in your community? What can your congregation do to go beyond providing a service?
In the beginning
La Cocina VA has raised more than $2.5 million since 2018 to build out its expanded D.C.-area location — complete with a commercial kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a walk-in refrigerator and a variety of supplies. But as is usually the case, things started smaller.
When she first had the idea to create a nonprofit, Funegra — who was born in Peru and moved to the United States in 2007 — had been working in the nation’s capital. She was employed at the Inter-American Development Bank, helping contacts in South America, Central America and the Caribbean with projects in workforce development, women’s rights and other issues.
But Funegra thought there was more she could do. She began volunteering at DC Central Kitchen, a nonprofit offering culinary programs and job training to formerly incarcerated people.
She started by chopping carrots and onions, and then an idea materialized. She saw so clearly that “this is something that we could offer Latinos, especially knowing the large population of Latino immigrants that work in food establishments,” she said. Funegra worked after-hours to network, research and validate her idea even as she held down her day job.
She eventually registered the new organization and went back to connect with DC Central Kitchen. And she built a relationship with a local community college that could offer certificates to graduates. Along the way, Funegra, now La Cocina VA’s chief executive officer, realized that a church could be a great partner.
“I learned that churches in the United States, especially the older buildings, have beautiful kitchens that are underutilized,” she said. And with that, Funegra was off, knocking on the doors of Catholic churches, Presbyterian churches, “all the different denominations,” she said.
When she connected with Arlington’s Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, things really started to move.
What resources are underutilized in your church?
An initial ‘match made in heaven’
While Funegra was making her rounds, Mount Olivet had already been offering community support, including a ministry to reach out to vulnerable immigrants by providing food.
“But then it became clear that we needed to do more than just provide food,” said Marilyn Traynham, the church’s administrator. “We needed to provide a skill.”
The church had a commercial kitchen, so when Funegra shared her dream, “it seemed like a match made in heaven for Mount Olivet,” Traynham said.
To start, the church managed logistics to ensure that there was adequate refrigerated space and insurance coverage for the project and that related needs were met.
“Mount Olivet has three values, and they’re very important: inclusiveness, making disciples, and reaching out into the community and world,” said the Rev. Dr. Ed Walker, the church’s senior pastor. “While there are a lot of good faith-based nonprofits, there are also equally good nonprofits that are not religiously affiliated.
“When there’s a need, you want to help find a way to meet that need.”
And so they did. La Cocina VA’s first cohort started in 2014, operating in the church’s basement. For several years, Mount Olivet provided not only space for classes but also lunches for students, gifts at Christmas for students and their families, volunteers to help transfer meals to low-income housing communities, and other support.
“[Mount Olivet staff] were so kind. We never paid a dime, not even for toilet paper,” said Hurtado, expressing gratitude to the church.
Students also received additional benefits. As Funegra explained, the program offers full scholarships, so students don’t have to pay for instruction, uniforms or other needs. The program has offered stipends for students without cars or jobs.
Funegra said this kind of help can be “hard to believe at the beginning” for some members of the immigrant population. Building this sense of care is immensely powerful, she said, explaining that in addition to finding jobs, some women have been able to heal or step out on their own.
But as the program expanded, it began to outgrow its church home. In addition to helping participants with their finances and business development, La Cocina VA staff became interested in growth for themselves.
When the opportunity came to move to another space in Arlington, made available when Arlington Presbyterian Church sold its building to benefit the local community, La Cocina VA staff took it. (The church is a recipient of the Traditioned Innovation Award.)
The nonprofit relocated to its new, built-out Gilliam Place facility during the pandemic, pushing through periods of capacity restriction and at times complete closure due to quarantining. Today, if you stroll through their modern, 4,000-square-foot space, you’d never know what they have endured.
Hurtado called the move to the new training and entrepreneurship center “a big accomplishment.” Its new programs include the cafe, which showcases products from the shared-kitchen members as well as La Cocina’s own menu, she said.
Now, the nonprofit has an operating budget of $1,662,000, according to staff members, an active and diverse board of directors, and a new partner in Arlington Presbyterian, which seeks to welcome all and “serve with compassion.”
Mt. Olivet’s relationship with the nonprofit continues, too. Funegra “is a very strong leader,” Walker said, noting that their partnership has worked well because of how Funegra has managed the program.
For churches considering similar arrangements, he said, “my advice would be, make sure the nonprofit has strong leadership.”
When working with this kind of organization, Traynham said, churches should think of the collaborator not as “a building user” but as “part of the ministry.”
A present-day partnership
The new partnership that La Cocina VA has forged with Arlington Presbyterian tracks along an innovative arc for both the nonprofit and the church.
Chartered in 1908, Arlington Pres sold its building and land in 2016 to allow for the creation of affordable housing after the congregation repeatedly heard that many people who worked in the city could not afford to live there, said the Rev. Ashley Goff, the church’s pastor, who now also sits on La Cocina’s board.
The cost of living in Arlington, Virginia, is 44% higher than the national average, and 134% higher when it comes to housing, as PayScale confirms. And in this diverse community, disparities are real, with 6.4% of the population living below the poverty level, according to the 2020 American Community Survey.
The result of the church’s rather sacramental gesture is Gilliam Place, the development where La Cocina is now located. The space’s 173 affordable housing units serve people with low-income, seniors and those with disabilities — and it includes leased space for Arlington Presbyterian, Goff said.
“The call from God to do something about affordable housing was bigger than the building itself, so the building had to go,” she said, harking back to a quote from a church member and explaining that the church is there to be a neighbor.
Arlington Presbyterian buys food from La Cocina VA and contributes financially — including a recent gift of $100,000, Goff said. “We actually discover who we are and who God calls us to be the more that we give away.”
The donated funds continue to benefit students from a range of backgrounds. For instance, a student named Elizabeth, who chose not to share her last name, said she is a trained veterinarian in her home country, but in the United States, she works as a medication aide.
“I would like to also have other options,” she said in Spanish, noting a desire to work independently.
Student Sandra Luz Roman said she enrolled to improve her technical cooking skills, with dreams of opening a little restaurant serving Mexican food.
What might God be calling your church to that is bigger than the building?
Meanwhile, student Wilmer Mejia said he studied chemistry in Peru but now works as a cook in the United States. He said in Spanish that the program lets him learn and is “offering opportunities.”
And those opportunities extend beyond what is taught in the kitchen. For instance, when the morning cooking session of the program concludes on a Friday in May, students straighten up their stations and move to an adjoining classroom to learn about formatting resumes.
When they shift rooms, they leave the kitchen spick-and-span. Bowls are nestled within each other. Large onions are piled in a clear container. Measuring spoons and cups are housed in storage spaces. It’s almost as if the students were never there.
How does your congregation discover who God is calling it to be? How do you discover who God is calling you to be?
And yet the impact of La Cocina VA’s work, and the churches with which they’ve partnered, is clear. The program is teaching Spanish- and English-speaking adults. Matching them with jobs. And creating hope.
As this work continues, Hurtado said, their faithful partners have been huge supporters.
“We definitely feel the love,” she said. “We have definitely been blessed by these two different churches.”
What does a faithful partnership look like for your congregation?
Questions to consider
- What skills, rather than services, are needed in your community? What can your congregation do to go beyond providing a service?
- What resources are underutilized in your church?
- What might God be calling your church to that is bigger than the building?
- How does your congregation discover who God is calling it to be? How do you discover who God is calling you to be?
- What does a faithful partnership look like for your congregation?