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Suburban inferiority…

I was at the new suburbia conference this past week. I’m not sure how true the conference was of its title, it was mostly about Christian community development in an urban setting, gentrification of city slums, and indigenous leadership empowerment.

There was some good material in there. However, I felt some of us gathered had been experiencing some type of suburban inferiority complex. I know the urban setting is where the needs are often greatest, not to mention hip, cool, and trendy, but suburbia has it’s place too.

What if we took global urbanization seriously, and those of us in the suburbs saw our communities as future urban centers of the world? What if the church began investing and building infrastructure into the suburbs and were on the leading edge of every urban tipping point?

* Photo by Ann Douglas

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Pete Wilson May 5, 2008, 7:59 am

    I totally agree with you Lon. Having planted churches in both settings I know first hand that they are both needed and very effective. Keep living out your calling!

  • Jake Belder May 5, 2008, 9:37 am

    I think you’re right, Lon, that it is important to work on building infrastructure in the suburbs. I have lived in the suburbs for most of my life, and know first hand of the lack of any sort of community or neighborhood there. That is for one why I really don’t like the mega-city idea, because the individuality of each community is subsumed into one giant whole. And then the whole loses any sort of identity or community because it’s simply just too big. We need to reclaim the idea of neighborhood in the suburbs.

  • tony sheng May 5, 2008, 1:13 pm

    i agree with you too lon – especially about those of us that live in the suburbs thinking it’s happening everywhere else but where we are – the slums or the urban cities.

    i know our suburban community is far more diverse than you could imagine and it’s a prime context to get our kids thinking about relating to the world, right here at home.

    and i love using the word ‘disturbia’ for fun….

  • russ May 5, 2008, 7:50 pm

    Good points.

    Sunday, I was discussing this issue with someone advising on church growth, which is not my expertise. He suggested a concept of community/neighbourhood involvement by the community church. Wherever a church is located it should concentrate on the tasks at hand.

    I reason that each and every type of area has ministry needs, and the local church should meet these where possible.

  • Todd May 6, 2008, 8:08 am

    hey, good questions here. I think there is a growing interest in this whole church and suburbs thing. I’ve been thinking about that a ton and the challenges that are presented in this setting. Not sure if you are interested but I’ve even did some writing on that topic here (http://www.toddhiestand.com/the-gospel-and-the-god-forsaken-the-challenge-of-the-missional-church-in-suburbia/03/) Sorry for the shameless self-promotion but people have really responded well and helped my thoughts grow.

    Al Hsu has also written a great book on the Suburbs that you may have read already. The Suburban Christian…


  • Lon May 6, 2008, 8:16 am

    Thanks for the responses guys. I’ll be writing more about it all soon as well. Pete I’d love to hear the differences you’ve found in the two settings.

    Jake, I love what you’re getting at, because I think loss of identity is a big part of suburban culture… we need to find ways to pull out the uniqueness of communities even in cookie cutter homes…

    Tony – disturbia is right… that’s where some of the inferiority i think seeps in in terms of ministry… urban ministry/mission just seems so much more impactful sometimes… i think it’s because many of us don’t know where to start with the ‘burbs.

    Russ – I’m totally down with the ‘turf’/parish mentality… church’s need to be involved with community development right where they are… what do we do with all the commuter church’s out there though?

    Todd – thanks for popping by, I”ll definitely be checking out your post!

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