Our vision at Church on the Street is to be an intentional and diverse Christian community where everyone is welcome, belongs and finds their place of service. Because of this we are quite insistent upon everyone taking ownership of the community: you receive and give. We like to say that we are cultivating a place where we take responsibility for ourselves, our neighbor and the common good.
One of the ways we try to gauge this is by seeing if new people stick around and then eventually start contributing to our common life without being asked. Around our community we talk about participation, or everyone “picking up a broom,” as a sign someone belongs.
This vision also shapes our guest “policy.” If you are a guest in our community then you are not allowed to help; you are only allowed to receive our hospitality. If you come back tomorrow it’s time to pick up a broom. If you are a long term guest then after a day or two you should probably pitch in. Basically, our guest policy is pretty much like anyone’s guest policy in their home.
All of this led to a funny turn of events. We were hosting another church in our community which was made up of a lot of teenagers. Many of the members of our community are homeless or transitioning from homelessness. This means that the hosting duties fall, in large part, to those the group thought they were coming to serve. As it turns out, this particular church group didn’t bother to help clean up much after themselves, especially following meals. As a result, many members of our community were heard grumbling about “these lazy kids that don’t want to do anything to help.” No doubt an accusation some of these “kids” would have made about the “homeless” at some point.
This is what makes our community so interesting to be around. The expectations are regularly turned on their head.