A North Texas pastor wants to help change the way people think about places of worship.
Pastor Richie Butler at Saint Luke Community United Methodist Church is hosting a town hall. The goal is to show others how church facilities and property can better serve communities around them.
Statistics say three to five hundred churches nationwide will close this year because of declining attendance. The decline that started before COVID was made worse by the pandemic, putting the church at a crossroads.
Pastor Butler says the time is now to rethink how churches and their property could transform into mixed-use facilities.
"Monday through Saturday, what's the highest and best use of that real estate. And that may mean something completely different than what we ever imagined," he said.
J Howard Kucher is an associate professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore and has studied redeveloping churches and properties.
"The trick in this is to find something that also aligns with your specific mission," he said. "And by that, I don't mean sort of the larger mission of all churches but the specific mission of that congregation."
Ideas include partnering with healthcare systems, bringing wellness programs, resources, and healthy food to your neighborhood.
"At the end of the day, what we put on it should support and drive the mission," Butler said. "And what that means could mean is that there is income to support and undergird it, and sometimes we're lacking that."
"It's a very significant challenge for just about any congregation and for just about every mainline denomination," Kucher said.
It's a conversation pastors and thought leaders are having across the country, reimagining the church and its property and how to best use that.