The Tenderloin district of San Francisco is one square mile. There are 37,000 people in that one square mile living in 586 apartment buildings. And San Francisco City Impact wants to plant a church in every single one of those apartments.
Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love and former pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, is working with the new initiative, called Adopt a Building. SFCI provides food, clothing and housing for those in the San Francisco area. Christian Huang, operations director for the new initiative, told The Christian Post that Adopt a Building is filling a need in the community that wasn’t being met before. It was the “missing component of City Impact,” he said.
The idea is simple. First they pick a building and get a prayer team together to start praying for residents in the building. Then a “grace team” is assembled to knock on the doors of every residence in the building.
Those on the grace team ask residents if there is anything they need: food, school supplies, prayer. In a video about the ministry Francis Chan says grace team members are really there to say, “We don’t want anything from you, we just want to give.”
Huang said many might question SFCI’s involvement in this particular district because there is a lot of crime and homelessness, but the real community is represented in these apartment buildings. They house families, single people, and many immigrants who don’t have a lot of people “interested in their lives,” he said.
Those on the prayer and grace teams are volunteers with SFCI and their sole mission is to be interested in those who live there. Since they already had a large volunteer base, SFCI knew that this ministry was a good place to “equip and mobilize Christians,” said Huang.
After the grace team has a list of needs from residents they will come back the next week to deliver what they requested. In doing so, the teams continue the dialogue that they started the week before with those in the apartment.
Chan – who stepped down last year as pastor of Cornerstone Church as he began to question and rethink "how we do church" – says in the initial stages of the ministry, the idea is to start making connections, to ask people if they want to learn more about God and read the Bible. The end goal is to find leaders in the apartment that can begin pastoring a church in the apartment building.
But instead of sending leaders they find in the building to seminary to become pastors, Huang says they will give them Chan’s new discipleship curriculum that he is working on. The new curriculum is supposed to “train the average believer to get strong enough so they can make disciples themselves,” according to Huang.
Leaders of the ministry believe someone will be found in each apartment building to lead a group of believers regardless of their level and knowledge of theology. “Many believers think they need to go to seminary, but were saying you don’t necessarily need it to make disciples,” Huang said.
A launch meeting for the ministry took place Sunday night with 65 volunteers in attendance. For now, the volunteers have four buildings they are working in, but they want to start adding more in the future.