Parishes all over the country are seeing new houses being built. These range from a few houses to whole estates, meaning the shape of our villages and towns are changing. All developments, big or small will have an impact on their local community. Developments of less than 500 new homes will be expected to access existing amenities, while developers of over 1000 houses will often have an obligation to provide extra community provision. New housing can create enormous opportunity but also challenge to communities and churches. Some greatly welcome the opportunity to provide affordable, much needed housing and embrace the thought of new neighbours and relationships. For some it can be more challenging, and some struggle with the thought of stretched amenities or have concerns about environmental issues. How churches respond and engage with the new housing agenda will depend according to size and circumstances. There are many levels of engagement from dropping welcome leaflets right through to intentionally planting people to live within these new communities. There is a role for all churches to play in these new developments. Here are some simple ideas to consider.
Get involved as soon as you can to maximise your involvement in the earliest stages. Often land allocation and community/education provision are decided at an early stage. Your local planning authority is a good starting point. They can also support if you are thinking about using a new building for worship. At the stage when houses become occupied it can be useful to look at the demographics of the new estates. Are they being occupied by young couples commuting out, families, retired people?
Pray and encourage prayer for the new development at all stages. Prayer walking around the area is a good way of engaging existing congregations with the new estate.
Resources and gifts
Identifying who, in your existing congregations, are likely to be in or near these places and prepare them to be missional. Consider developing a strategic group, to identify future housing projects and to co-ordinate work and mission in the new developments.
Create a welcome pack
This could be anything from a leaflet with church information on, to community information and new house gifts. Tea, coffee, cake or new household items are all lovely to receive and give an opportunity to make contact with new residents.
Explore ‘third space’ places
Have a fresh look at your local community, both buildings, community spaces and open and outdoor spaces to look for potential places to engage with new residents or for potential new worshipping spaces.
Listen to the community
Moving into a new estate is different to an existing one and pioneering can become influential very quickly. If we want to bless the community, it is important to listen to what the community wants rather than imposing our own ideas.
If you would like to explore the area of new housing further, please contact Laura Edwards from the diocese’s Mission team. Email Laura.firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07838127921