One of my teammates passed along a DVD from Q, an organization founded by Gabe Lyons that educates church and cultural leaders. The DVD, “Where You Live Matters“, includes a conversation around presentations by Tim Keller, Mel McGowan and Joel Kotkin.
One of the most interesting stats in the DVD came from Kotkin, an internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends. He analyzed the total population growth in metro areas of more than one million people. Between 2000 and 2006, 92% of that population growth was in the suburbs while 8% of the growth was in the core city.
It was a great reminder to me that as the population continues to grow in the suburbs, the demand for vibrant, suburban churches also increases. That doesn’t mean we need to forget our city centers when it comes to planting and growing healthy churches. It’s just a reminder that we need to be intentional about reaching people moving into new and existing suburban communities.
The interesting thing is that in “church world”, there seems to be a number of new voices talking about how churches need to engage our city centers. That’s a good thing, because it’s a topic that seemed to be completely absent from the conversation in the past. I have a strong suspicion, though, that what leads to vibrant churches in the city core may not necessarily be effective in engaging our suburban communities.
It’s a whole different world when you live and do ministry 36 miles from the closest metro stop. What works in New York City or Seattle may not reach my neighbors in Paulding County, Georgia. It’s a different context. It’s a different mindset. And, it’s going to take different churches to reach different people.