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How to avoid conflict over shared classroom space with schools or other ministries

Shared space! These two words together can sound like an oxymoron when it comes to life in a church or ministry. However, with today’s economic situation, we need to work together with others who share the same building or space, even though we may work in different ministries. You might share your space with a Christian school, as I do, or share your church building with another church on Sundays. Either way, there are challenges in both scenarios.

Fifteen years ago, I received a letter from a Christian school parent who encountered these challenges personally. It went something like this: 

Dear Pastor Dave,
My daughter is in Mrs. Smith’s fourth grade class. When she returned to her classroom on Monday morning, she discovered that someone from your Royal Rangers ministry went into her desk, ripped pages out of her book, and scribbled on her folder with a black marker. This is the fourth time this has occurred. Perhaps, since your workers have no control of these boys, you may want to consider canceling this ministry until they can be controlled.
Sincerely,
A Christian school parent

Receiving a letter like this may feel embarrassing, but there is hope when it comes to sharing space and, most importantly, working together. Before we get to that, let me share with you my situation and how we worked to resolve this issue.

I have been the children’s pastor at my church for 18 years. Originally, our campus was a California-style elementary school that was the property of the Smithtown, N.Y., school district. Our church bought the property in 1978 and opened a Christian school. We began construction for our sanctuary in 1980 and eventually moved into the new facility in 1983. Our campus originally had 17 classrooms that the Smithtown Christian School used every day. Our church also used these classrooms for Sunday school, children’s church, Royal Rangers, youth activities and special meetings. Basically, the building was in constant use. Miscommunication or no communication between church and school evolved at different times. Ill feelings developed, and the main point of reaching people with the Gospel was lost because of this.

Our goal was to have the church and Christian school work together. We realized that in order for our ministries to be successful, we needed to come up with a plan that was workable.

1. Both parties sat down and discussed how each classroom was being used and what could be used and not used in each room. For example, at the end of each day, the school teachers left chalk at their chalkboard for the church leaders to use. This eliminated the need for church leaders to open the teacher’s desk to find supplies, especially chalk. If you are sharing your building with another church, it would be a great idea if both parties sat down and agreed on what equipment or supplies can be shared and how. This discussion should include the kitchen area, sound systems, office supplies, etc. Cover all your bases!

2. Storage is another issue we had to deal with. We worked out an agreement as to what cabinets can be used for storage and what closet space can be used by both parties, where applicable.

3. Communication was another big issue. In the past, if teachers had a problem with their classroom when they returned on a Monday, it was very easy to pick up their phone and call the pastor in charge of that particular ministry. We developed a policy that teachers need to call their respective principal to share any concerns they have. The principal, in turn, would contact me, when necessary. I, in turn, would be in touch with the Sunday school teacher who used the room. Streamlining communication in this manner helped all involved to know what continuing issues there were, enabling us to handle all problems promptly and efficiently.

4. Pray! Prayer does work! Ask the Lord to give you wisdom on how both parties should work things out. Each person is there to do the same thing: to share the Gospel in their respective ministries. Pray and ask the Lord to show you that what the other person is doing is just as important as what your church or ministry is doing.

Colossians 1:10 says, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” If we all strive to do exactly what this verse tells us by living for the Lord and allowing good fruit to be produced in our lives and ministries, sharing space with one another will not become a burden, but a privilege. So … let’s get to it!  

David Harff Pastor David Harff has been the Children's Pastor at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle, Smithtown, NY since March 1991. He & his wife Kristine were married in April 1992 and have four children. To learn more about Dave and his ministry Kids in Missions, visit www.kidsinmissions.org. This article is posted in cooperation with the INCM Insight, a monthly E-Magazine provided by the International Network of Children's Ministry. To sign up for this FREE resource, go to INCM Insight.

More from David Harff or visit David at http://www.incm.org

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