Technology: Getting people into The Mix
Rhonda Sweet was living in Florida working a corporate job when she felt the call of God to go into urban missions. She wasn't exactly sure what that would mean, but she followed God into that call.
Sweet ultimately left the corporate world and moved to Dallas where she found a job as a caterer and community conduit at an innovative new initiative called The Mix Coworking and Creative Space.
Housed in White Rock United Methodist Church, The Mix was the brainchild of the Rev. Mitchell Boone. The then newly appointed pastor was considering how to utilize a large church facility that was unused for the majority of the time.
He wondered what might happen if the church could open its doors to local entrepreneurs and provide access to the technology that would be well outside the grasp of most people starting a small business? What if their unused space could be a place to help people make their dreams a reality?
In partnership with Varyn BeVengotita at the Missional Wisdom Foundation, White Rock Church gave birth to The Mix that Sweet helps facilitate as the community conduit.
"When people walk through the door, I try to help them bring their dreams to life," Sweet said.
A major boost is giving the budding entrepreneurs access to a range of technology.
They start with a 45Mbs Internet connection. There are also a professional culinary kitchen, podcasting studio, video conferencing room, sewing lab complete with digital embroidery machines, textiles workroom and even a dance studio.
The impact is incredible. "People who may never come to church will come to a coworking space" Sweet said. "Then I get to use hospitality as a means of grace to show people the love of God. We are a beacon of light meeting people's needs."
Through this missional use of building space, White Rock Church has provided technological fuel to a range of different businesses. The Ahadi Collective trains African refugees in sewing, product creation and business operation. Linden Grove Theatre offers classes for children to grow as the artists of tomorrow. The Dallas Peace and Justice Center works for peacemaking, the recognition of human and civil rights and the pursuit of ecological and climate justice.
Boone is careful to note this is not some sort of bait-and-switch to try to get people to become church members, "but literally just to say, ‘Look, we've got all this extra space. We want your passions to be realized and found and then acted upon." And that kind of unconditional love has brought many of the people that are part of The Mix into other ministries of the church.
"It's about being the hands and feet of Jesus," Sweet said. "The love and grace we show them lets them see faith positively and make a choice of what to do about faith in their own lives."
All of that from an almost unused basement space.
The Rev. Jeremy Steele is Next Generation minister at Christ United Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama. He is also an author, blogger at jeremywords.com and a frequent contributor to MyCom, an e-newsletter published by United Methodist Communications.