Monday, July 24, 2006

A Church ... in a Laundromat?

A couple of years ago, while leading a Church Planting seminar for middle school and high school students, one of the pretend "church planting teams" came up with an incredible church planting idea. They posed the question, "What about a church in a laundromat?"

They weren't talking about an existing church with a laundry ministry. No! They presented a clear, well-thought-out proposal for planting a new, collegiate focused church in a laundromat. They figured that, after the initial investment in equipment, the new "church" would basically "pay for itself." Students could bring their laundry to the "Laundromat Fellowship," and while their clothes werein the spin cycle or tumbling toward dryness in one of those big, commercial dryers, they could enjoy times of fellowship, refreshments, and Bible study. Since laundry is (in the very least) a weekly need, it seemed to that group of students to be a perfect match for an innovative church plant.

It was one of the most incredible, original ideas that I had ever heard for a possible church plant ... and it came from a group of students!

Well, imagine my surprise (and joy) today when I came across an internet article entitled, "Detergent Church: Phosphate Free and Full of Life." It is a reprint of a story from a local newspaper in Gemeintown, Manitoba (Canada). The essence of the story is the fact that there is a cluster of churches being started in laundromats, called "detergent churches." (They claim that the pastor, who is hard of hearing, became confused at a conference about the "emergent church," thinking that the speaker was saying, "detergent church" ... but I don't believe it. ) These churches, it seems, are springing up throughout Manitoba.

Pretty cool stuff. The way the Canadians are doing things is just a bit too over-the-top "emergent" for me. In fact, I'm not entirely sure about their theology, because their worship practices are pretty doggone strange ... so I'm not at all comfortable with providing a link. If you're that curious, you can find it on your own, just don't get too caught up in the way they do things.

But the principle remains. Laundromat churches! This is an innovative, "out-of-the box" opportunity for church planting that exists in hundreds of our college communities. Maybe we need to buy a few washers and dryers.

Does anyone have any extra quarters?


Blogger Sarah said...

Now that is an innovative idea! Of course, in Tigerville, SC we don't see too many laundromats but wow. Mad props to the group of students that came up with that!

Oh, and Canandians are just weird.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Michael Jones said...

They are definetly wierd, but also unique. Not that you have room to talk looking at your picture.

On to the real topic. That is an outstanding idea. College towns are full of laudromats and they are a great place to meet people. Not to many in my neck of the woods though. Let's just pray for them to get their doctrine straight.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Michael- OUCH! Anyway, now that I've licked my wounds, I think church in a laundromat would be a good idea in places such as Kansas City, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago. What do ya'll think? ;)

10:52 AM  
Blogger Roger Ferrell said...

Sarah - be nice, many of my weird friends are Canandians (Canadians).

Michael - don't make fun, it took hours with Olan Mills to get that picture right.

All - what other places could we/should we plant churches? What about a book store where we could have discussion groups about spiritual books, or in a hospital lounge for those who are waiting for loved ones who are ill? Let's hear some thoughts on unique places and opportunities for the church to gather.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I know of one group at North Greenville that had a Bible study going at Waffle House. It was pretty neat. The waitresses would even join them on their breaks sometimes. I would like to see that started up again.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Bryan Riley said...

All over Fayetteville, Arkansas, you will find on just about any morning groups of bible studies in the coffee shops/donut shops/Paneras. That is church! Like the hospital, how about retirement homes? What about patios of restaurants?

4:59 PM  
Blogger Roger Ferrell said...

Bryan - A couple of years ago when I was serving as a Church Planting Strategist, I talked with Chick-Fi-A corporate about having church in their restaurants. These were ideal because they are closed on Sunday (still most people's preference for a gathering) and had a soundproof play area for children. Alas, they said no. But it did get me thinking. Our North American Mission Board has an agreement with Regal Cinemas (which even has its own website for SBC church planters) with a sliding rental scale for church planters to use theaters for worship services. We need to do more of this kind of thing. Now each planter does not have to negotiate with Regal, just go in and talk with them and set up the details. The local theater cannot say no, since the national office said yes!
House churches are, of course, the ultimate reproducible location.

BTW, I looked at your site and we will be praying for your process and move with YWAM. Do you know yet where you will be serving?

6:30 AM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Frankly, I am flabbergasted (I always wanted to use that word) that Chick-Fil-A won't give it's space for church, but Regal Cinemas will. Go figure.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Bryan Riley said...

I am surprised that Chick Fil-A said no also, especially given their culture and commitment. That is another of the morning locations for bible studies. In Fayetteville, the local owner is a Christian.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

That's the thing ... it is an entire organization founded and operated upon Christian principles. Perhaps, by allowing any group to hold church there, they are afraid of offending other of the brethren and sisteren?

11:50 AM  
Blogger Roger Ferrell said...

You got it -
That is exactly the response I got from CFA legal. Their quote "if they let us meet there, then they would have to let any religious group meet there." I understand. They were also concerned that customers would see us in there and think they were open on Sundays. Of course, we can study the bible there anytime they are open. And now get a milkshake to go with it!

8:42 PM  
Blogger Michael Jones said...

I am awestruck that CFA won't let any church meet at any of their restaurants. Don't they give out college sholarships for Christian students?

5:42 AM  
Blogger Roger Ferrell said...

I didn't mean to demonize Chick Fil A. They do great ministry there and probably have valid reasons why churches cannot meet there, i.e. it would open them up to accusations of prejudice if they did not let any group meet there, and it would appear to customers that they were open on Sunday when they are not. I just thought it was a great space for a worship service and so I asked CFA if it was possible. I am sure there are some other great spaces that will say yes. It would be good if NAMB could leverage their size and national status to make more of these across-the-board arrangements like they did with Regal.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Michael Jones said...


I really wish we could ahve been able to set up services at the theater. It really would be a great place to worship and meet lost people.

4:54 PM  

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