There are high rise condominiums growing up out of the concrete all around us here in Houston. Many are replacing older apartment buildings that took up more space. But there is also brand new construction all around easy access to transportation routes in the downtown, mid-town and westside neighborhoods like Memorial, the Heights and Upper Kirby.
These new trends in residential building are following demographic trends:
- The birthrate has been on the decline, women are waiting later to have children and are having fewer children – the time to move out to the suburbs and focus on the school district is coming later.
- People are waiting later to get married, more are living together first. Most couples who marry today, cohabit first. This means there is a longer transition period into the neighborhood housing experience.
- More people are living single for longer. This means that a smaller, more convenient living space makes better sense.
Our physical living arrangements in large cities like Houston are changing because of the new ways we are choosing to live our lives. Many of these choices are not necessarily deliberate.
There are three big social changes that have come to dominate our lives that I think the local church needs to spend its energy and focus:
- Working is coming to dominate our lives – we want to live closer to where we work. We now have technology that allows us (if we like it or not) to work all the time. The old fashioned 9-5 workday has disappeared – along with the typewriter. Younger people feel a tremendous amount of anxiety about their work future.
- Relationships are more transitory and fragile than ever before. Traditional families, composed of mother, father and their children are at the lowest numbers ever in our history.
- People are less and less knowledgeable about what and why they believe about their faith. This means that decision making based on personal and collective faith becomes less certain.
How is your church organizing itself to minister to the new world emerging all around it? Take a look at your church website, newsletter or even weekly bulletin. What clues can you learn about the way your church has organized itself for ministry? What is aimed inwardly, how much outwardly?
- Is your church using the internet effectively to communicate, teach, and involve members and seekers?
- Are you scheduling activities that are convenient for only a limited segment of your church?
- How are you taking your church into the neighborhoods? Do you have regular gatherings in people’s homes – including those condo’s and apartments?
- Are you finding ways to help people in your church and community find ways to solve larger problems related to raising children, adult relationships, taking care of parents, finding a new career?
The ways that your church has organized itself – committees, funding, programs, etc. will tell you how prepared it is for the changing world. Very rarely will your church be able to do things it is not organized to do.
Take a good hard look at the world around you – and then pretend you are an outsider and look hard at your church. How well do the these two worlds connect?