Friday, April 20, 2007

The Deli – Location, Location, Location

It is Friday morning and I am at The Oasis, my “office” away from the office. I am putting together the PowerPoint for this weekend’s worship services. Following that, I will finish the prep for the class I teach and try to make serious headway on next weekend’s services (I will be out of town most of the week for the Purpose Driven Presbyterians conference). There is a point in my telling everyone this “stuff.”

Driving from the church office to The Oasis I went past a real estate office. Its reader board said, “Established Deli for Sale - Spanaway.” Spanaway is an area of the county near our church. A deli is for sale!! What went “wrong” with the dream of the deli owners? We will never know. However, this I do know—I would NEVER own a deli in Spanaway (even though I lived in Spanaway for ten years). A deli needs to have a population base to support its operation. Spanaway is a diverse area that ranges from middle to lower income neighborhoods to rural “hobby” farms. People drive through Spanaway on their way to somewhere else. Local residents buy groceries, gas, lattés and fast food. Small businesses come and go on a regular basis. It is not a great location for a deli.

A poor location is difficult to overcome for a church. Evergreen is in a beautiful location. We have almost five acres on top of the hill south of Graham. We have a fabulous view of Mt. Rainier. Our location has serious problems. It is VERY dangerous getting off and on the highway from the church. There have been serious car accidents on the highway in front of the church—many of our folks have had close calls. A more serious problem for attracting new members is that we are 2.5 miles south of the urban growth boundary. People do not drive our direction—the vast majority of all services are to the north. Thousands upon thousands of people have moved within five miles of the church and will never drive by our church. There is no local paper or radio station for advertising. It will be very difficult for Evergreen to overcome our poor location.

Evergreen is not alone in our Presbytery. Mission Wood Presbyterian Church (in Milton) is no where near a main road. The majority of people in Milton have no idea that Mission Woods exists. Parkway Presbyterian Church (in Parkland) is off the beaten path (sorry Kyle). My clergy group meets there every month. Unless a person lives in the neighborhood of Parkway you would never know it exists. Westminster Presbyterian Church (in Tacoma) is at the end of a dead end street. They have a huge physical plant that is invisible to the community. If you are going to Lakewood Presbyterian Church (in Lakewood) you had better print out the directions from Mapquest! This list could go on, and on, and on! Our Presbytery is filled with churches that are invisible to their communities because of their location!

A business can “make it” in a poor location IF it offers such a superior product that people will seek it out. Something similar can be said for a church. However, it is very difficult for a smaller church to offer such a superior experience that it can overcome a less than ideal location.

Evergreen isn’t the “normal” small Presbyterian Church. People who happen to find Evergreen love our theology, worship and music. For a small church we have an excellent choir. We have so much going for us; yet, it is difficult to overcome our location.

There is a growing number of people at Evergreen (most of them are our newer folks) who recognize the problems with our location and are open to the idea of relocating the church. Session will seriously look at the relocation issue in the coming months. Location, location, location. Why is it that so many of our churches are in less than ideal locations?


At 3:33 PM , Anonymous -Kyle said...

While I admit that Parkway is off the beaten path, I believe it forces us to be more creative in getting our name out to the community. Because of county regs I don't believe we can build a sign at Pacific Ave. So we use members yards along 138th for signage of important events. The dramas on Easter and Christmas have been great ways for members to invite friends and family to Parkway. The past few years we presented "Journey to Bethlehem" a tour of Bethlehem around the birth of Christ for visitors.
The location isn't ideal for drive by appeal for visitors, but creativity and loving nature of the congregation is a great way to bring in visitors.

At 12:02 PM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

I knew that this post would be controversial. It is possible for churches to thrive in less than ideal locations--it just isn't as easy.

The PCUSA needs to do a better job of selecting sites for new churchs.

At 9:39 AM , Blogger Presbyterian Gal said...

How about a contest with first, second, third, oh as many prizes as you want ideas? The contest: Best idea for putting our church on the radar! The prizes: lunch with the pastor, favorite Sunday School teacher tucks in your child with milk and cookies one night, choir director sings or plays piano during your dinner......stuff like that.

How about group events with all the local Presbyterian Churches, like a picnic with game contests: sack races, egg races, etc. with prizes. Or, even group pot luck suppers. I don't understand what happened to pot luck suppers. Call it a dessert and coffee house night. You could probably pool funds to hire a local Christian comedian.

Cross pollination tends to bloom more flowers, so to speak.

Just thinkin' here.

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