Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Java Journey will be a “Third Place” and “Social Condenser” -or- The Mars Hill Approach Continues

Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) – Acts 17:19-21

The Cheers song has been overused for illustrative purposes, but for good reason. The part of the lyrics that states “You wanna go where people know, people are all the same, You wanna go where everybody knows your name…” is, without question, resonant to a majority. “Cheers” (the fictional tavern itself) is a “social condenser.” It is a “third place.”

Below is an excerpt from A Multi-Site Church Road Trip (Zondervan 2009) edited by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird. “Third place” is very well defined.

Ray Oldenburg is credited with coining the term “third place” in his book The Great Good Place. A third place is somewhere outside the first two spaces in our life: work and home…

Ray Oldenburg believes that bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other third places are central to developing a vital community. Some call such places “social condensers” – places where community is developed, cohesion is retained, and a sense of identity is created. In the business world, the third place concept has become a buzzword for retailers as a “place to aspire to become.”

Oldenburg lists the following eight characteristics of third places:

1. They are located on “neutral” ground.
2. They are “levelers” where rank and status don’t matter.
3. Conversation is a main activity.
4. They are easy to access and accommodating.
5. They have a core group of influential regulars.
6. They have a low profile instead of being showy.
7. The mood is playful.
8. They feel like a home away from home.

Ed Stetzer, president of research with LifeWay Research, in a February 2008 study conducted for Cornerstone Knowledge Network, asked, “What kind of places do the unchurched like to come to?”…

According to the survey, the reason why people choose particular locations to meet with their friends is because these places are relaxing, casual, and fun. When asked to describe in their own words design features of the kind of place where they’d like to meet a friend, responders mentioned a quiet environment, comfortable seating, and a spaciousness and openness.
This is precisely what drives the vision that Teena and I share, along with a “core group influential regulars.” Our design is purposeful so that folks will walk into the place to meet a friend, of just sit comfortably. Our mission is stated as being a place which: “provides hope and restoration to the hurting and broken by sharing Christ's story, showing His love and by empowering the restored to serve others.” We believe deeply that the only way to do this is to gain a trust and a rapport with fellow human beings – and the means to establish that is provided by an environment that maintains “a low profile instead of being showy.”

We grow more and more excited each day.

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