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The Psalter says something interesting about the significance of a home: “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God” (Psalm 84:3). In the New Testament, Jesus tells the disciples they are more valuable to God than sparrows (Matthew 10:31, Luke 12:7). In the temple, even the humblest creature found a place to call home. So if the sparrow has found a home in God’s sanctuary, don’t we think that God cares about homes for human beings, too?

The need for affordable housing continues to grow in the U.S. with high interest rates and low inventory. Developing affordable housing might seem like an unrealistic endeavor for a church to tackle. However, it is possible, and some congregations have done it successfully. In recent years, more faith communities have come to the realization that not only does God care about housing, but they can also play an active role in solving housing problems in their neighborhoods.

Churches in rural and urban areas often already own the asset that is most difficult to obtain for any housing development: land. As the way we do ministry continues to evolve, some congregations will notice they have more building space than they need. Congregations that have experienced a significant decline in membership can explore ways to repurpose their buildings for residential use. God is a God who brings life out of death.

It’s important for church leaders to do their homework before tackling a housing project. Talk to church leaders who have done it before. Check out the resources in this week’s issue and be inspired. Who knows? Maybe God has called you to do this, too.

Resources

How the church can serve society by changing the way it handles property

As many as 100,000 buildings and billions of dollars in church-owned property are expected to be sold or repurposed by 2030. With planning and thoughtful stewardship, those assets can continue to serve communities, says Mark Elsdon, the editor of the new book, “Gone for Good?”

Q&A with Mark Elsdon

‘When God’s Call Is Bigger Than a Building’

The Rev. Ashley Goff reflects on her congregation’s long — and sometimes contentious — process of building 173 apartments for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities in this excerpt from “Gone for Good?”

By Ashley Goff

The church isn’t dying. It’s being remade

As the 1950s model declines, new ways of being the church are popping up all over, and gospel truths are now being found in new containers, writes a social entrepreneur.

By Shannon Hopkins

A partnership rooted in God’s love builds affordable housing in New York City

The Trinity-Rev. William M. James Senior Apartments is a collaboration offering affordable housing with wraparound services for seniors, intentionally including the formerly incarcerated.

By Genine Babakian

An experiment in housing and health: Tiny homes, burgeoning community and respite care

A Nashville church shares its property with a cluster of tiny homes where unhoused people can recover from illness and injury and move closer to stability.

By Fiona Soltes


Before you go…

We’ve heard about churches who have been burned by developers that took advantage of well-intentioned, unprepared church leaders. But as you can see in the resources this week, there are socially conscious developers with the integrity and the mission that are fundamental to supporting churches in their good work. Whether it’s affordable housing or another kind of social or entrepreneurial venture, the gospel calls us to be the body of Christ for the sake of the world. Churches cannot possibly solve the problem of housing affordability. But on this issue as well as others, we can be a sign and a foretaste of the reign of God.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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