Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ministry in Suburbia

Suburbia is a relatively new way of living within the context of world history with the advent of the personal automobile and with it has brought many challenges to ministry. Here are some of the most obvious challenges I have observed after living in a more urban context:

Lack of Proximity- People are far from everything. Far from neighbors, work, jobs etc... This lack of proximity reduces the amount of chance encounters with others or even just repetitive contacts.

Lack of Time- The suburbs have developed a culture of business and activities which is often seen as a kind of social capital while the sabbath has been rendered obsolete.

Lack of Community- The first two challenges contribute to this. As people have to work extra hard to connect with others (you don't just drop by if someone is a half an hour drive away) most social events must be planned well in advance. Because of the combination of distances and activities if people are able to get together then their time is often highly limited.

Ideas for combating these cultural barriers:

Location- Be very intentional and picky when choosing where you will live. Choose a location that will reduce you travel to the places that you will spend most of your time. This will allow you to spend more time in the places that matter to you and will free up much of the time that you would normally be sitting in traffic.

If you are locked into your current location, then look for ways to spend more time in your immediate area. Choose activities with a closer proximity to were you are as much as possible.

Time- Don't be stingy with you time but make sure to plan times of pause, rest, holy leisure and silence into your day. Avoid over-scheduling with activities that will leave you physically spent and unavailable to connect with others.

Community- You will have to work within the social norms of planning and preparation in order to connect with others. However, try not to cast the nets too wide, start with a small group. A deep and healthy community requires time, energy and repetition.