People of God where every you are
I found this great list on a friends blog today. If you live in suburbia, this is a helpful tool to challenge you into a deeper walk with God and people.
I was surprised at how much it challenged me as well. It reminded me why we choose to live in the city. Some of these things I am doing OK with, while others are still a struggle.
While I have always said that having a healthy marriage and family is the biggest ministry living where ever you live, I think that these tools will help your family grow stronger as well.
Ten Ways to be the People of God in Suburbia
by Chris Smith
In response, to Brian McLaren’s call for urban churches at the Mayhem gathering last weekend [in Cincinnati], my friend Mike Bishop has been stirring up some conversation on "suburban ministry." Here's my response to that conversation, ten ways for those called to suburban ministry to be in the people of God in radical ways in suburbia. This list is meant for people to chew on and not all of its points may be applicable for all suburban missional church communities.
1) Live with others from your church community
Whether you share your home with another person or family, or whether you have several families that have homes in close proximity or both, sharing life together is perhaps the most powerful (i.e., going against the grain of suburban culture) way to be the body of Christ in suburbia. If you can't live together, at least find a way to share resources (power tools, lawn mowers, children's clothes/toys, etc).
2) Work Less!
One of the major powers that enslaves suburbia is the idolization of the career. There are many ways to pay the bills that do not involve a 9-5 job, and even within a 9-5 job, there are ways to work less (turning down promotions, taking unpaid leave, etc.) Working less will free you to serve your church community, your family, your neighbors, etc. It will also spur creativity: finding a solution for working less, finding a way to "make ends meet" financially, etc.
3) Throw out the television
Another (and perhaps larger power) that enslaves suburbia is consumerism. You'll be amazed at how your desire for things ebbs as you take the TV out of the picture. If you can't bring yourself to kill the television, at least take steps to lessen its influence (get rid of cable, only use it for movies, put it on a cart that can be wheeled in and out of a closet, etc.) Throwing out the television will also stimulate your creativity.
4) Drive less
Suburban culture is also enslaved to the automobile. Find ways to loosen those bonds (much more difficult in suburbia than in urban areas). Share a vehicle with others in your church community (much easier if you are doing #1 above). Invest in a good bicycle. Walk. There was a segment on "60 minutes" a few weeks ago about how much we miss when we zip around in automobiles. Walking and/or biking will help you be more attentive to your surroundings
5) Have a garden / grow food
Suburban life is often very shut off from the food cycle (Food comes from the grocery store, of course!). Homegrown food is more healthy, it gives you a good excuse to be outside (see #7 below), and it provides you with a resource to share generously with your church community and your neighbors. Phil Kenneson outlines a number of horticultural lessons for the people of God in his intro to LIFE ON THE VINE that are additional benefits of this practice.
6) Get to know your neighbors / listen for their needs
To be human is to be poor. Or in other words, everyone has needs. The challenge of suburbia is that there are many more ways to conceal that poverty, and similarly that it will take more effort to get into a position where a neighbor can reveal their needs. Be intentional about building relationships. Share meals, play poker, have block parties, whatever it takes.
7) Be outside as much as possible.
Another temptation of suburbia - fueled by individualism - is that of the house as an impenetrable fortress. Dissolve this temptation by eating, playing, relaxing outside. This practice is also one avenue to interact with your neighbors.
8) Do not fence in your yard
All apologies to Robert Frost, but fences do not make good neighbors, and in fact they often keep us from making good human neighbors. This is a corollary to #7, the fence is a major component of the impenetrable fortress syndrome; it protects our privacy and keeps out our "evil" neighbors. It often is a statement of distrust. If you must have a fence (to corral a dog for instance) make it as low and as permeable (i.e., not blocking off the view) as you can get away with.
9) Take a stand against the greed of mega-corporations
Whenever possible, resist buying from domineering mega-corporations (e.g., Wal-mart, McDonalds, Starbucks, and others). These corporations destroy local economies and have little or no concern for the environment. Buy as much as you can from businesses that are as local as possible (family-owned businesses are preferable to local chains, local chains are preferable to regional chains, and regional chains are preferable to global corporations.)
10) Utilize and support non-commercial public spaces (parks, libraries, colleges, etc.)
This point is another corollary of #7 above. We must utilize and show our support for these public spaces, lest they be conquered by the powers of individualism (by becoming private property) or by consumerism (by becoming commercial or industrial property). This is also a wonderful way to foster relationships with our neighbors.
Ways our family has tried to implement these ideas:
1. We have had folks live with us in the past, and are still open to it if we ever have a larger space. But for now we live in a neighborhood where tow families from our church community live. We have been getting better at sharing, taking care of each other and deepening our relationships but it is a constant struggle.
2. We don't work much. Chris works from home. Though he travels a lot, he is home more than he is gone. I only work one day a week now and have no desire to be full time.
3. Though we haven't thrown out the t.v. we did move it to the basement and have only one t.v. Kids aren't aloud to watch it during the week and I am learning to turn it on less for myself. I am listening to natures symphony now instead of watching the view:) I envy folks who throw it out totally. I don't know if I am ready for that yet
4. Driving. Not too good at this. It is hard with three kids. Chris and I take public some when it is just one of us. I am going to fix up my bike soon.
5. We have a little garden and we share with others int he neighborhood.
6. We have been living here 5 years and only know a few of our neighbors well, which is ironic since Chris works for Mission Year. We take have been talking about ways we can reach out more to our neighbors. There are a lot of people that are just hard to get to know for many different reasons, but we are trying to be creative.
7. We like to be outside and having kids makes that easier.
8. We have a fence, but if you blew on it, it would fall:)
9. We stay away from Walmart and the like. I did go to target yesterday which is rare. I was planning on going to the goodwill to try to get what i needed there but the darn thing closed.
10. We definitley utilize public spaces. We like anything that is free:)