This post continues our series on how churches can bring new life to their underused spaces, benefitting the local community and maybe earning extra income in the process. Don’t miss parts one, two, and three!
1.Host a neighborhood farmers’ market
What happens when a historic church and a coworking space collaborate to create a space for a farmers’ market? N3rd Street Farmers’ Market, that’s what. This year, entrepreneurs at Indy Hall got the idea that Old City Philadelphia should have its own Farmers’ Market. They made arrangements with Christ Church to use the street space alongside the church, and voila! A thriving local market was born.
Having a farmers’ market benefits the community by bringing people together, making fresh and healthy produce more accessible, and giving local businesses a space to sell their wares in a way that builds up the local economy. It can also benefit the church in a variety of ways: providing this opportunity to make connections, as well as the opportunity to do a little fundraising. The merchants might donate a small percentage of their proceeds in exchange for using the space, for example, or the church could join the fun and put up a bake sale booth as part of the market!
2. Host a cooking contest
Recently here in Philadelphia, Old First Reformed United Church of Christ opened its commercial kitchen to the “Top Shelter Chef” cooking contest. Local caterers got a chance to show off their skills, and the proceeds of the contest supported the men’s shelter that the church operates every winter. We think this is a great think-outside-the-box way for a church to raise funds by taking full advantage of the spaces it has available! The church got to connect with local chefs, and an important mission of the church — the homeless shelter — got some vaulable support and visibility.
3. Start an artists’ residency program
A church with lots of empty space in a Sunday School building, disused convent, or other interior space might consider starting a residency program for artists. Artists, writers, and other creative professionals often look for the opportunity to spend some restful time away from the demands of their daily lives, creating new work and reflecting on future directions. Residency programs all over the world provide them with room, board, and a space to create in. The financial arrangements vary: sometimes the artist pays for the residency, sometimes there is a system of grants and stipends, and sometimes the artists do volunteer gardening, odd jobs, and renovation work as a way of bartering for their time in residence.
The Alliance of Artists Communities provides some helpful guidelines for the practical process of setting up. The influx of new energy that a residency program brings can be invaluable for the hosting community. Each artist’s residency could end with a gallery show, for example, drawing in a crowd that might not ordinarily have the opportunity to connect with a church community!