The WaterSports Library – the sharing economy as mission

John Good moved to Poole with his family to plant a church on a brand new housing estate. His new venture is called the WaterSports Library, and he explains how a sharing community fits into his vision for mission.

You’re a pioneer church planter. Why have you started a library?
Well, I’m after a new starting place. I have believed for a long time that whatever church is, it should emerge out of mission, not the other way around. I have the luxury of a blank canvas and the question I’m asking at the start is, “who is God to the people here?”

People here have a passion for the water. We are proud of the harbour. It’s big, beautiful, a source of trade, leisure and tourism. Some of us have watersports equipment and access to the water and others don’t. The ones who don’t have access might not have the cash, the confidence, or the know-how.  In part, I have started the library because it can help us as the Hamworthy community to share the water equipment that we already have and in so doing, become the answer to our own need. In time, I hope it will become a hub that people who have a passion for the water can get to know each other.

Another reason to help people get onto the water though is that some of the greatest times I have experienced the power, the presence and the peace of God has been when I am out on the water. It seems very natural for me to worship God when I’m surfing or swimming or paddleboarding out there. More than that, water is healing. It helps rewire stressed minds, untangle anxious thoughts and build strength and confidence. It seems natural to try and point people to Jesus through his power in the outdoors and the water. 

What does your library lend, and where do the items come from?
At the moment the library has about 45 pieces of kit. Right at the start, an amazing couple gave us £2,000 to get hold of some initial stock. After that they mainly come from individuals and churches. We have only just started asking but people have been very generous. We have hard kayaks, inflatable kayaks, stand up paddleboards, surfboards, wetsuits, dry bags, skimboards and lots more. You can see the current inventory here. There are some fringe items too, such as a pizza oven and BBQ. I may put a few bits of camping equipment in there and see how they do. We have just started being offered boating experiences too. Sailing boats, powerboats and fishing trips have all been offered. I don’t know my way around the legalities yet but I would love to see people getting more use out of these generous offers.

What are the social and environmental benefits of a library for watersports equipment? 
I think there are lots of benefits of sharing. Firstly, sharing our stuff strengthens communities. Think about it: if you lend me a kayak that you own, that takes trust. If your trust is rewarded when I return it, then our relationship is strengthened. You have done something good for me and I have had the benefit of using a piece of equipment that you weren’t using and I would have otherwise had access too. Multiply that and hopefully the effect would spread across a community. 

Sharing is also a powerful way of reducing the carbon footprint of the planet. When we share stuff, fewer things need to be made which is better for the planet. I have read some articles suggesting that sharing while it is the smallest circle in the circular economy, it is just as powerful as recycling. 

It’s also a financial equaliser. Sharing means you don’t have to have a bigger income to enjoy the same benefits as someone else. It also means that if you do want to buy something you have the opportunity of trying it before you buy it!

I am also excited about what events we could put on. There could be some social events, some social action events and some faith-based events to help people discover and grow in a relationship with Jesus in creative ways. Could we do retreats, digital detoxes, ‘ocean church’ for families, try praying. I have lots of ideas. 

What are your hopes for the next couple of years of the Watersports Library?
It’s very early days yet, but in a couple of years time I would hope that a strong community has grown around the library. That the people involved would be contributing ideas to it. I would hope that we have tried and tested some Jesus-shaped water-based experiments too with some kind of community eager to find out more about God.

If it were to really work big though, my vision for this would be to see it more like a network. Poole council has recently merged with Bournemouth and Christchurch. I would love to see one large inventory of watersports equipment spread out over garages, beach huts, churches and shipping containers all across the three towns. 

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