What happens when a church congregation decides to open its doors to the wider community, to truly share their space with the movers and shakers from the outside world? What could happen if small non-profits and entrepreneurs who want to change the world had a place to gather and work collaboratively on projects? What if local artists and small businesses could work side by side to create their wares, cheering each other on?
The concept of Coworking was new to me when I arrived in Dallas, TX for a five day speaking trip, but Rev. Dr. Ken G. Crawford, the pastor at Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), made me a believer pretty quickly. Rev. Ken came to CCC with experience serving in pastoral and nonprofit settings. His work includes life coaching and spiritual direction, offered in the congregation and as a ministry in the community.
Yesterday Ken took me to Common Desk, a Coworking space downtown that seeks to provide creative Coworking spaces to a diverse community of freelancers, startups, and small companies, driven by a staff that’s passionate about building lasting relationships. (I wrote a bit about it here.)
Today, we visited The Mix, a Coworking space set in the basement of a church. According to their website, “The Mix Coworking & Creative Space (The Mix) is an experimental intentional community and collaboration in the marketplace.” It’s located in the historic White Rock United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX and offers wide-open spaces as well as individual nooks for folks to work.
Ken commented that The Mix recognizes and embraces the challenges of doing its work within a church facility and emphasizes that, “It is turning out to be a wonderful experiment in ministry and an opportunity to experience grace while new expressions of church emerge within the sphere of traditional forms … People are learning new ways of working together, building community among those with and among whom they work, and dreaming of a new and better day for themselves and the world. And they are taking action that is already manifesting that new way of being. What more could anyone ask?”
I had the opportunity to wander around the space and explore all the amazing creations taking form there – a freelance advertiser working on graphics, an app developer preparing to take his medical app to a wider audience, artists studios filled with beautiful pieces, a commercial kitchen hosting a photo-shoot, and a sewing collective run by refugees. That all of these things can flourish in a space uniquely suited to their needs is a testament to the church’s dedication to meaningful engagement with the wider community.
And things are happening at CCC, too! Ken came to the congregation one year ago and has been helping this church to reach out to its neighbors, Coworking being one manifestation of this. It’s called SyncLife Coworking and it aims to promote mindful working. The space is staffed three days a week, and on Tuesday there’s a whole program to help folks get into their groove: people arrive and settle in, then gather and check-in as a group, followed by an hour of learning and reflection, then a potluck lunch and chat, ending with open Coworking from 1pm on.
Their website goes on to explain the benefits of Coworking in a church space, saying that, “Churches have all the makings of great coworking spaces – lots of room, table and chairs, coffee and wifi. And, most importantly, really great people who are good at gathering people together around their life purpose. Many legacy churches are struggling financially as their congregations dwindle. Meanwhile, people continue to seek places and communities where they can belong. These communities take all sorts of forms, as documented by our colleagues at How We Gather. At Central Christian Church of Dallas, we are partnering with Table Coworking to enliven our campus by welcoming people from diverse vocations and social impact organizations. From our Dog Park to our Sunday morning pews, we hope to continue and grow our 150+ years of welcoming all to deepen our connections to each other and to the divine spirit within.”
Before arriving in Dallas I knew nothing about Coworking. If someone had tried to explain it to me, I don’t think I would have fully understood what is was and why it can be so important. After experiencing three Coworking settings in the last two days, though, I can confidently say that I’m a convert! I’ve seen how these spaces can revitalize churches, connect neighbors, and inspire creativity. The possibilities appear endless in Coworking spaces, and I guess that’s kind of the beauty of them.