A recent article asked what America should do with all its empty churches. According to the article, six to ten thousand churches close each year, or about 22 a day. The Bay Area is no exception, as less than 40% of its residents attend church – the lowest rate in the country. A study by Barna Research found that the lack of feeling a connection to God, inability to build authentic community on Sunday mornings, and a perceived absence of value drive this trend. Many churches, who once found themselves the center of the community, now are hurtling towards irrelevancy.
Yet, in the face of these challenges, some churches are refusing to go extinct and are committing to serve their communities in novel ways.Crossroads Church in Palo Alto created a drop-in work space and daycare to serve its neighbors who are seeking WeWork-type environment without the exorbitant cost. . In Saratoga, a group of churches in partnership with their city have opened up their safe parking for the working poor who are seeking a safe place to park their RVs. Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and Stanford Memorial Church host yoga.
Churches committed to the cause of serving in innovative ways can partner with value-driven organizations and cities that encourage such community building. All Good Work places nonprofits and social enterprises into communities they can benefit. And cities, like Palo Alto, have revised zoning and permitting regulations to allow for new purposes to take root.
Hoping to become more relevant, these churches are aiming to realign their missions to serve their communities by providing relief and addressing pressing needs, such as the high cost of living, daycare, and collaborative work spaces. The Bay Area is known for its entrepreneurial ecosystem and churches can be a vital component of that.