When the biggest tenant in a strip plaza owned by an East Orlando church closed shop, the outcome seemed grim.
It was a major source of income for LifeSong Church. Pastor Tim Farrell had only recently arrived and was concerned. But he also felt that the Lord was moving the church to take a look at itself and come up with some creativity.
Thus, The Table was born. Well, actually, it is about to be officially born.
With Farrell’s wife, Tracey Farrell, taking the lead, church congregants have pitched in, and the space is being transformed into a community classroom space, a wedding reception venue, business workspace, and a café. The possibilities seem nearly endless.
Several years back, the church’s planning pastor realized it would be less expensive to buy the strip plaza, filled with mom and pop shops, than to rent the space they were using for the sanctuary. So, they did. Then, the largest tenant, CrossFit, folded.
Pastor Farrell sought God’s wisdom, and a creative ministry for the community soon followed.
|Workers build one of the 14 farm tables for the Fresh Expression.|
“For two years, we have essentially trusted the Lord with our budget and have been working at building out this 6,000 square-foot space,” he said. “For two years, the church has been stepping in to create this expansion of our church campus.”
It is not about filling the sanctuary with new members, Tracey Farrell said. It’s about bringing people to Jesus Christ. If that leads them into the sanctuary, so be it.
“Where we are at today is close to opening The Table,” the pastor said. “It is going to be a ministry space where several things are happening.
“We have partnered with a coffee shop, the Duo 58, a Christian coffee house that has been very successful. They do really great coffee, and they also cater, so throughout the week it will be an open area where people can come in and plug into work and enjoy food and coffee.”
The bigger picture is to create a beautiful event space at The Table. There is no other venue like it in East Orlando.
“We are asking people to really pray about and wrestle with what God would have them offer at The Table,” Pastor Farrell said.
“The community will be made aware through social media and the web site of events each week where they could come and take classes in everything from how to read the Bible, to a story time for children.”
Tracey Farrell came up with the name for the new space, which led to congregant Eric Reed gathering fellow church members to build 14 huge farm tables from scratch.
“It was something to see,” she said. They cut, sanded, stained and constructed the tables all in one day. “It was pretty cool to watch.”
The Table is a Fresh Expression ministry of the Florida Conference. These ministries find a different way to form faith communities that reach new people, in new places, by new ways. Some churches host singing at local pubs, kayaking for Christ, bicycling events, or canoeing on a river on a Saturday morning. Afterward, they read scripture together.
“When my husband and I got to LifeSong, we found a great group of people who were at a place where they needed to start looking at the community and what it needs,” Tracey Farrell said. “They wanted to reach out to the community.”
|Plans for The Table include many different ways to reach out to the community.|
The Table is becoming a community space the church can support.
“But, really,” she said, “it is the community’s space.”
Tracey Farrell told church members if all they see is each other’s faces in The Table, it’s a failure. Each person needs to take responsibility to spread the word throughout the community.
Members are already using their God-given talents toward that purpose. One man has planned a financial workshop. Other ideas moving ahead include a college-prep course and an SAT prep course.
Some classes will be free, and some may have a fee for materials.
“We have put it out there to the people, and each month we will have a calendar of classes people can register for,” Tracey Farrell said.
“It’s a really pretty space, so, we also know people in the community will rent it” for wedding receptions and other events, she said.
Also, a percentage of what Duo 58 brings in will go to the church, which will use it for mission work in the Dominican Republic.
The church works with a missionary in the Central American country to provide help to school-aged children there, many of whom are orphans.
“Our hope is just that people will use the new space to build relationships,” Tracey Farrell said, “and that we can point people to the Lord first, then the church.”
—Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer from Valrico.