28 tips for sharing space with ethnic churches

by Trent DeLoach, Lead Pastor, Clarkston International Bible Church
Monday, December 11, 2017 | 2 yrs old

On any given Sunday at Clarkston International Bible Church (CIBC), more than 1,000 people from more than 30 different countries who speak more than 50 different languages gather to worship Jesus in eight different worship services.

This weekly phenomenon is possible because of the willingness of eight churches to share space in a special place called CIBC. Now, CIBC is a small Southern Baptist church in the heart of Clarkston, Georgia. The church was formed in 1883 and was originally named, Clarkston Baptist Church.

Clarkston happens to be one of the most ethnically diverse communities in North America. At the turn of this century, CIBC had some tough decisions to make. Would it embrace the increasing diversity of their community or cease to exist? Fortunately, the leadership of the church chose to embark on an incredible journey to embrace diversity and partner with ethnic churches to engage the nations that God is bringing to North America.

I currently serve as the lead pastor of CIBC. I am the first to admit that we are still learners and far from experts. However, our experience as a multiethnic expression of the body of Christ has convinced us that sharing space with ethnic churches is both difficult and deeply rewarding.

We have been able to start new churches in our space and see them grow and launch out on their own. We have had to remove churches from our space because of unethical behavior of key leaders and other issues. There are days when we rejoice in seeing the nations worship Jesus together in our joint worship services. And then there are days when grow tired of searching for sound cables that managed to disappear again.

Overall, our experience has been positive. We would love other churches to consider opening their doors to ethnic congregations in need of space. Following are some insights that we have learned through the years. Much could be written and said about each of the following points, but please reach out to CIBC if you would like further explanation of our insights below at info@cibcfamily.com.

Seven difficult challenges
Stuff will get broken, lights will get left on and items will go missing.
When unattended, children will roam and often get into trouble.
Communication will require patience and perseverance. One email rarely works.
Churches will request additional time and space on major holidays.
Churches will request additional time and space for weddings, funerals and special events.
Scheduling space in general can be tricky when churches start late and run long.
Sharing the financial burden of operating a building can be tricky. 

Seven mistakes to avoid
Be careful about hosting churches that result from a church split. Ask a lot of questions.
Be careful about sharing space with a church that cannot contribute in any way to overhead cost.
Be careful about hosting multiple churches from the same ethnic group or linguistic group.
Be careful about treating an ethnic church as an extension of your congregation unless it is true.
Don’t share space with churches that have radically different beliefs.
Don’t share space with a church that has been forcibly removed from another church.
Don’t share space with a church that has no desire to partner with the host church in any way. 

Seven best practices
Have a filtering process that prospective churches complete. (Consider an interest form and interview.)
Begin with a 90-day trial period.  Basically, date before you get married.
Move to a yearlong lease with an annual review process.
Make the annual lease renewal Feb. 1. (Avoid Jan 1.)
Host quarterly meetings that involve prayer, celebration and facility updates.
Host joint worship services once or twice a year to bring the congregations together.
Help congregations achieve self-sufficiency and celebrate the transition to their own space. 

Seven rewarding benefits
You will develop relationships with ethnic pastors and their church members.
The quality and diversity of food at your joint potlucks will increase.
You will experience multiethnic worship at joint services. It’s pretty amazing.
You will get more kingdom impact out of your existing church buildings.
Your church be more relevant in an increasingly diverse culture.
Your church will be better positioned to reach second-generation immigrants.
Your church will be better positioned to push back lostness in North America.

Editor’s note: Trent DeLoach has worked among refugees for over 12 years. He currently serves as the lead pastor at Clarkston International Bible Church, in Clarkston, Georgia, and has worked among refugees for more than 12 years. If you would like more information on any of these ideas, please email info@cibcfamily.com.