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colorful classroom

The Space Race

Sometimes people feel possessive about their space and race to keep others out of it. The space race is a ministry reality, but it requires the mindset of a relay race team. I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s in a small city that was actively involved in the Apollo space program. Coordinating the first landing on the moon required a lot of teamwork by a variety of people. I’m not here to write about the history of my hometown, rather my focus is on the use of space in our schools and churches. While this is often viewed in a negative context, it’s truly a blessing when our facilities get stretched to the point of sharing space because we serve many people in a variety of ministries. However, sometimes people feel possessive about their space and race to keep others out of it. The space race is a ministry reality, but it requires the mindset of a relay race team.

While there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that my classroom will look exactly like I left it, it doesn’t happen too often that I am the only one using “my” room. In my years of teaching, my classroom has doubled as a parish hall, adult Bible studies space, a meeting room for Scouts, confirmation classroom, elders meeting room, VBS and Sunday School classroom, youth group room, and choir space. Unless you’ve served in a mega church facility in which there is an endless supply of money and land, I’m guessing your experience has been much the same.

markersWith so many people in and out of a space that someone would like to homestead, space battles are common. We fall into a mindset of it being a race in which there are winners and losers. It’s time to think of this not as a 100 meter dash, but rather a space relay where we work together in a variety of ministries to connect individuals and families to Christ. How we do that will finesse our relay technique and benefit God’s kingdom.

Some schools and churches rent space to outside entities. Ideally, every ministry setting (including those who rent their space from secular organizations) will have a policy statement and contract on the use of their space. Many churches now rent space to other Christian organizations and community programs. In this case, be sure to ask the hard questions that lead to solid policy. Talk with other Christian churches in your communities to get a feel for appropriate agreements and get all decisions in a clearly written policy statement.1

What about the many times that various people within the church or school community use that space for different functions?What about the many times that various people within the church or school community use that space for different functions? While we can inundate people with too much minutiae, clear guidelines on shared space can level the track of a space relay that serves all users and builds the overall ministry of a church. All stakeholders for particular areas should have copies of the guidelines and agree to abide by them.2 You may not have a choice as to who uses your space, but you do have a choice as to how you work with them.

Meet the people who will share your space. Get to know them and their needs. Whether you are sharing with an “insider” group from your congregation or “outsiders” from the community, we are in ministry to our shared space team members. Some of these individuals share in our ministry, but for community members, we may be the most important person to show them Jesus.

pencilsA key component of the sharing space relay team is prayer. Sometimes it takes a conflict to remind Christians of the power of talking to God and listening to His answers. However, planning for shared room usage requires prayer up front. We pray for guidance as we begin to develop strategies for effective ministry through sharing our territory.3 We pray for the people who will be affected by this. Don’t limit prayer to only the leadership team that is working out the logistics. The stakeholders need also to pray for guidance in the process and pray for those to whom they will be handing off the baton. There will be times when we are frustrated with our team members, and then it’s helpful to remember Matthew 18:15-17 (The Message), “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again.4 Remember that the goal is not to win a personal victory; your goal is to make the situation workable for all involved.

Sharing space requires mutual respect between all parties involved.5 A sixth grade classroom teacher has different goals and strategies than a high school youth leader who shares the room on Wednesday evenings. Yet both need space that meets the needs of their students. While the sixth graders need age appropriate wall decorations and books, the high schoolers don’t want to feel like sixth graders again. It takes creativity and determination to solve this, devising strategies such as portable bookcases or dedicating a bulletin board to the high schoolers can help. Although these challenging situations can appear to have a negative impact on the two different ministries, intentionally creating connections between the two age groups can be faith builders. The adults who share the room can teach others how Christians work together for the good of God’s kingdom in the ways they face challenges and find solutions.

The use of supplies for two different groups is one area that can raise tension. Clear communication is essential to avoid stepping on each other’s toes.The use of supplies for two different groups is one area that can raise tension. Clear communication is essential to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. Ideally, you could find some room in your space to dedicate to your teammate’s ministry. When that isn’t possible, work with an administrator to find a place on the premises to store bins that can be easily transported. Determine which of your items the other leader can use; perhaps items on the desk are fair game, but anything in the desk is off limits. It’s only fair to the other person to let them know what works for you.

Finally, remember the Golden Rule to treat others as we want to be treated. The same ideas matter in any relationship:

Yes, the space race is a ministry reality, but it requires the mindset of a relay race team. Every member of the team runs their assigned distance and trains for a smooth handoff to the next runner. Don’t drop the baton!

Dr. Becky Peters is a retired educator who after 44 years in teaching decided it was time to hand the baton to the next generation of educators. She is enjoying life in northern Colorado spending time with family.

ENDNOTES

1. Wilson, R. F. (2019). How to share your buildings without losing your church. Retrieved from http://www.joyfulheart.com/church/share.htm

2. Kvamme, J. M. (1/10/2011). Sharing spaces. Retrieved from https://www.efca.org/blog/church-leadership/sharing-spaces

3. Harff, D. (n.d.). The wonderful world of shared space in your church or ministry. Retrieved from https://incm.org/the-wonderful-world-of-shared-space-in-your-church-or-ministry/

4. (1993). The Message

5. Levine, J.M. (n.d.). Making shared classroom space successful. Retrieved from https://prizmah.org/making-shared-classroom-space-successful

 

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