New Urbanism and Third Places

Rhett Smith, a college minister in California, talks about an interesting article on his blog:

“Fuller professor Eric Jacobsen is doing a lot of work as a theologian on what is termed the ‘New Urbanism.’ The New Urbanism stresses the importance of a ‘third place’, where people spend their time away from home and work. For me, that has probably always been a coffee shop where I hang with friends and study. Sometimes it was the gym, or a local sandwich shop. Jacobsen says,

Jacobsen said places like Zona Rosa might make an ideal ‘third place,’ the term New Urbanists use for a location where a person spends time that is not his home or place of employment. The third place is an important part of a community, he said. It’s where people from diverse backgrounds learn to interact.”

The article is a great read. It basically talks about how as people moved to the suburbs, the church became a set apart place that was intimidating for people to go to unless they were already involved. In another way, it separated Christians from the culture. They’d do the “Jesus thing” on Sundays in the big building surrounded by the big parking lot and then head back into their neighborhood and live their lives until the next Sunday.

Some churches are already doing a good job showing that everyone can use where they live, work and play to minister to the people around us. This takes it a step further. It’s time to start thinking about the “third places” individuals and churches can use to build relationships and be a part of a community. How can I connect with people at Starbucks? How can a church create environments that foster connection? Warning: It may not be a big boxy building. It may not even be a building built by the church.

I’ve mentioned the church before, but I love what National Community Church is doing. They meet in movie theaters and are building a coffee house in a highly trafficked area that will also house their church offices above and a meeting room below. It’s a church, but it doesn’t have to look, feel or intimidate like a “traditional American approach.” It’s exciting stuff.

One response to “New Urbanism and Third Places”

  1. In one of my advertising classes I did a branding project over Starbucks. They have been building on the “third place” concept for years now; it’s really one of the driving forces behind what their coffee shops are like. They want it to be the place you go when you aren’t at home or at the office. Sounds like these ideas are creeping in to Christian thought & community. It is fun to read about a secular concept of “thrid place” in their annual reports.

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