One of my favorite Reggie Joiner ideas from A New Kind of Leader is that what we are doing only matters, if it matters right now. While this is certainly true of the ministry we do for kids and students, this is also true of the ministry we do with adults. Our communities are full of clues that provide us information regarding what matters to those in our churches. Family make-up, gender, age, economic status, educational background, professional experience, and even race all color how we see ourselves in the world. These demographics color how we see God working in the world. These demographics provide shape for how we see each other in the world. We get insight to what’s important to our congregation when we know who is in our congregation. Demographics provide the context through which we share and live out the gospel with other people.
Race and Ethnicity
There’s no way to avoid the impact of this societal construct on our congregations at this time in American history. Our country is split along racial and ethnic lines in a way that we haven’t seen in a long time thanks to the advancements of media and technology that put stories of racial and ethnic injustice at our fingertips. As many congregations seek to be places of healing and restoration in our communities, many pastors and leaders are looking at the possibilities of multi-cultural ministry. However, the reality of establishing a growing multi-cultural ministry is a result of taking seriously the demographics and issues that are in our communities. On March 9, the New York Times published an article concerning African Americans and their presence in white evangelical churches. The article discussed a timely truth that people worship where they feel cared for; where the things they care about are the things that the church leadership cares about. People worship where the messaging is applicable to their lives.
Race and ethnicity, even in 2018, has a great impact on the issues we face throughout the week. And the issues we face throughout the week cannot be separated from the God that we worship on Sunday. People want to know that the God they hear about on Sunday is the God that cares about what they are facing Monday through Saturday. Acknowledging and addressing, celebrating and cherishing the realities of differences that happen across racial and cultural lines shows the value we put on all people when we come together as one collective community.People want to know that the God they hear about on Sunday is the God that cares about what they are facing Monday through Saturday. Click To Tweet
Single, married, divorced, and widowed all come with different circumstances and stories. They also come with different ministry needs throughout the year. Congregations that are highly single look for ways singles can connect and have community with each other. Congregations with a large percentage of married couples establish small groups for married couples to be a resource to each other. Churches with larger populations of divorced and/or widowed individuals might have resources to deal with the emotional challenges that those situations can present. Marital status is a changing demographic indicator but it is an indicator that informs so many areas of our lives. We care about the marital status of the people in our congregation because we care about making the Gospel community a place that fits in their lives outside of Sunday morning.
My church has six campuses. At one campus, it is a normal occurrence for families to have three to four children of various ages in one household. They have two parents and live close by. When they have worship experiences for the whole family, seating is always a concern and they think about adding extra services and chairs. At another campus, only 29 percent of the people in attendance have children and most of those children are young. The nursery, toddler, and preschool rooms are steadily growing. The elementary school and student areas have slower growth trends although we know eventually all those new babies will become preschoolers and preschoolers will become elementary schoolers and so forth. When they have family worship experiences, the early service will be busier because by 11:15 little ones are taking a nap. Preschool parent get-togethers are more essential than multiple rooms for elementary school large group and small group experiences. Knowing the family make-up of the two campuses within the same congregation informs talks about present programming and future building needs. It informs the way we partner with parents and how we do life with students.
Community demographics tell a story. Those stories help us know where God might be working in a specific community. Those stories show us where we can get involved with what God is already doing. Demographics help to fill in the unspoken nuances of the people we serve and want to serve in our churches. When we take the time to get to know the surface level of the people who surround our congregations, then that opens up opportunities to be relevant enough to get to know them in deeper ways.
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