New Spaces for New Faces?
In a recent article in the USA Today by Jefferson Graham (May 4th, 2011) titled, "Entrepreneurs find office alternatives to coffee shops," he tells of a new business on the west coast called NextSpace. It’s a concept where customers can rent a desk, an office, or a conference room, to conduct personal business.
A recent customer is quoted in the article, "It's like a library for people with smartphones and laptops. Coffee shops are too rowdy and there's too much activity, but coming here [NextSpace site] there's a real working mind-set."
According to Graham, “the concept of shared workspaces that appeal to the tech crowd is a growing phenomenon, with popular facilities in the San Francisco area, Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York and other major cities. Early-stage start-ups often can't afford hefty rents, and their uncertain success makes a long-term lease less desirable.
NextSpace founder Jeremy Neuner says there's more than financial concern at play for his customers. "What people are discovering is the need for that age-old human connection," Neuner says. Graham continues in the article, “What you get is a table and chair to call home. The facilities are Starbucks-like but quieter and don't have music playing. “…customers can [also] secure an office or conference room.”
Graham tells of one customer who didn't choose NextSpace for the no-commitment rent; instead, it was access to people. ..” “Working at home isn't rewarding," says another quoted in the article, "I'm a social person, and I recognize that the world's best opportunities are by collaborating with people."
This got me to thinking of all the churches in our conference currently dealing with unused spaces. Why not think about converting empty space into modest office space for those seeking a slight upgrade from working at home, or who would like an office setting for meeting clients? A modest cost may be required to set up a strong Wi-Fi, arrange for plenty of power hook-ups, a coffee maker, some desks and chairs, and some extra keys. Understand I’m not suggesting churches start a business in the church building, but use this as an evangelism outreach. (A very modest fee to reimburse costs could be allowed without threatening your non-profit status.) It could bring in new people who would get to know you, you them, and who knows what might grow from that. In lieu of rent, perhaps you could get users to agree to some type of in-kind service, teaching a quarterly class for a Wednesday night group, or training folks in a unique skill set, for example. Even a light user base puts cars in the parking lot and means people moving in and out of the building.
This is just one idea for redesigning empty spaces to reach new faces in a new way. Do you have other ideas you could add?