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One of the questions we’ve fielded over the last several months is the decision to plant a church in the suburbs. After all, the hip (and needed) place to plant a church these days is the heart of the city – downtown and midtown.

We did talk and pray long and hard about location. Several factors came into play as we decided to plant in the eastern ‘burbs of Shelby County: relationships, potential impact and influence in the city, and the sense of God’s leadership.

My friend and fellow Orchard Fellowshipper, Nolan Bobbit, sent me the following….

Joel Kotkin, an internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends… 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.

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