Wage Gaps and Church Planting
For me my ministry journey has taken a number of twists and turns along the way. Most of my formal education is ministry-related from pastoral ministries to biblical studies to church planting and church growth to urban church planting and so on. Yet increasingly what drives me the most over the last number of years is studying cities both formally in school as well as all of my reading usually revolves around urban planning, urban history, economics, and more along these lines. It's been years since I've really read anything ministry-related.
But it is all ministry-related.
Take yesterday as an example. I had the privilege of working with a new church plant here in Portland and training their leaders in how to map and exegete their neighborhood. All of the tools I referenced and utilized were from urban planning or community development sources and classes. We talked about discerning the values of the neighborhood, noting pedestrian traffic patterns, observing the mixture of housing stock and modes of transportation, and so much more. It was and is ministry-related.
My thoughts continuously move back to economics. I still find it strange I have such a deep love and fascination with economics. When I came to faith in Christ and gave my life to Him I thought that would simply entail being a pastor or missionary. I didn't know about all of the other things I'd need to learn along the way, especially as it pertains to living and ministering in the city. You see, one of the markers of what makes a city great (or struggling) really is about economics. What economic engine was the city founded on? Has it changed? Is it attracting an educated and skilled work force? Are people leaving to find educational or employment opportunities elsewhere? Why are some cities clearly the winners in the new economics arms race while others continue to lag behind?
You see, when you minister and serve in a city all of these forces shape so much of your ministry. Why? Because it influences the lives of those in your church. Why is your church shrinking? Maybe the mill or mine closed and people are leaving. Why is your church experiencing rapid growth? Maybe it's because you're located in a rapidly growing hi-tech sector / suburb that continues to spawn new start-ups and draws an educated and skilled workforce from all over the country and even world. It's not the God is necessarily abandoning one and blessing the other, but so much of it is tied to economics.
There are lots of conversations today about wage gaps, income inequality, attempts to double-down on growing our manufacturing sector, and rising costs of a college education. Again, these forces are shaping and reshaping our cities. They also influence your church, church planting efforts, and the people you're connecting with whether you're in a large metropolitan area or smaller city. This all part of understanding your context. It is what it means to be a missionary ... to exegete your community so you know what is going on and even why.
Here are two books that would be helpful to pick up and read ... Urban Code: 100 Lessons for Understanding the City by Anne Mikoleit and Mortiz Pürckhauer. It helps you to see the city in a new light from how, where, and why street vendors set-up shop, to architecture, foot traffic, and so much more. The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti. Moretti does a masterful job of walking you through where jobs are located and why as he writes about the three Americas present in our nation.