Leah and I are officially accepted into (a not to be named ministry). Sometime between September 10th and 15th we will be moving into Coldwater Springs Apartment. (We will also be attending a wedding and Williams family reunion during this time). Some of the details are still up in the air. The apartment is actually very close to where we live now. We will stay friends with our neighbors (who will still be our neighbors, just on the other side of the gate). The kids will go to the same school they go to now. Leah will finish at Empire Avondale. And we will continue to Pastor Coldwater Church. Chris will continue to work for UPS, and he will stay on payroll at the hotel (that Hilton Family Discount is nice!). In the near future he will move from regularly working 16 hours a week at the hotel to merely filling in for vacations, peak seasons, and emergencys. Leah hopes to finish school in October and be working by November.
So what does (a not to be named ministry) do?
At the apartment we will assist the managers and leasing agents by planning great events, performing welcome visits, and doing we care visits. (a not to be named ministry) has an excellent bussiness model and the research is pretty overwhelming that apartments with (a not to be named ministry) teams have way better retention and happier residents. I'm sure some apartment management companies are very excited about having happy residents, but I'm sure all open their eyes when they see the thousands of dollars they save by turning apartments less. The evidence also shows employees stay longer when there is a (a not to be named ministry) team there to help them, appreciate them, and pray for them. Again...this translates into Big bucks for the management companies.
I thought this was a ministry?
54% on people in Metro areas live in apartments. Thats right, more than half. Less than 5% of apartment dwellers have any connection to a local church (compared to about half who dwell in single family homes). There are some real challenges for churches to get "in" to these communitys even if they would try, the gate is usually locked. We will live with these folks, inside the gate, become their friends and show them Jesus. They call it intentional relational evangelism and it's what Leah and I have been trying to be about. The cool thing is... the events, meeting space, and advertising are being funded or at least subsidized by the apartment company. NICE! We will be held accountable to attend training, have spiritual conversations, and yes they even track how many times we share the gospel. That'll be okay.
Aren't you busy planting a church?
YES! The events they want us to do are things we would do anyway; community gatherings, service projects, and intentional acts of kindness. They encourage us to work with outside organizations and even to have volunteers come help us with the events. Does this sound like an un official partnership? We will see. So it will be our "job" to meet and greet all the new residents in the community (about 33 households last month). Not only do they give me the address, they give me a reason to be there. Oh yeah, I also get the keys to the pools and clubhouse. YES! Don't get too excited. Its alot like doing campus ministry at a public school. We are governed by Fair Housing and I am quickly becoming familliar with conceopts like the "five resident rule" (if five residents ask for a Bible Study than it's cool). There are no ristrictions however on us having a book club, philosophy night, or educational seminars. I am confident our past experience and current perspective will allow us to navigate this well. We also see this as a wonderful oppurtunity that will be a blessing to our church and in a new way allow our church to be a blessing to our community... specifically an extrememly "unreached" portion of it.
What about moving your kids into an apartment?
Yes we have these concerns and thanks for expressing yours. We will be moving into a 3 bedroom apartment that occupies just under 1,400 square feet. It also has a full size washer/dryer, his and her sinks, and other cool upgrades you might choose if you were building a new home. We also get access to amenities like the gym, movie room, tanning beds, and pools. Yes... you can come visit. Apartments have changed a lot even since we moved out of Palm Court eight years ago. More and more we want our kids to know the adventure that is following Jesus. More and more the so called American dream of owning a home and having a nice car, big tv and stainless steel appliances seems like a distraction to this. We don't mean to pass judgment on anyone else, but for us this seems like a good way to practice living simply.
So that's what we're up to. We are pretty excited. We covet your thoughts and prayers.