Livability and Church Planting
For the last number of years I've attempted to point out in various venues and mediums of the correlation between livability and church planting. Meaning, neighborhoods and cities that rank high in livability are also the same locations on the receiving end of an explosion of church planting activities. This is not a value statement to talk about the rightness or wrongness of this reality, but it does bring up something related in terms of places in need of church planting and community / economic development.
There are similarities between the lack of church planting in places low on the livability scale and the lack of new businesses starting or relocating to these sample places. As to why, we ask questions.
The answer to these two questions are in the sense the same:
- Why don't church planters want to plant churches in unlivable communities?
- Why don't businesses or executives want to relocate or start businesses in unlivable communities?
The answer in a lot of ways has to do with quality-of-life issues (education, health care, climate, recreation, etc.) as well as amenities and aesthetics. In the chapter "A Framework for Community and Economic Development" authors Rhonda Phillips and Robert Pittman point out, "... in the final process after as many factors as possible have been quantified, these intangibles [amenities, aesthetics] often determine the outcome. Most company executives prefer to live in desirable communities with good arts, cultural amenities, recreational facilities and opportunities, low crime, and a neighborly, cordial atmosphere" (p.14).
And so do church planters ...
So where does that leave us? What does this mean for Intrepid? In many ways it makes the challenges even greater. If the challenge before us has to do with the reason why new churches and new businesses don't or won't start in communities lower on the livability scale it means that possibly one of the first tasks at hand is to actually improve livability. Phillips and Pittman point out, "Aesthetics and the ability of a community to provide a high quality of life are increasingly important in investment decisions" (Ibid.).
Isn't ultimately what combining church planting with community / economic development about? Increasing a community's livability? YES. And to do so we believe that while we plant churches, share the gospel, and disciple people towards maturity that we also need to be launching new businesses, organizing neighbors, getting involved on the grassroots and city level, participating in tactical urbanism design interventions and so much more.
If livability is the key to unlock the growth of a community and improves the lives of those who live there then shouldn't we also be about that as well? And to do so maybe we need to start with aesthetics and amenities ...