The local church is changing, just like everything else in this country. The shift is seen all across our towns and cities. It began with how we shop. First, it was the local grocer in a small shop., It then it became the Supermarket which has given way to the Mega, Super-centers which have everything. The days of the mom and pop local store are fading and they are closing up shop. What the all in one stores didn’t destroy, the mega specialty chain franchises have causes major problems. There are a handful of small shops where I live that I use constantly, they are so hard to find these days. I support them all I can. What the mega stores didn’t destroy, the internet is sure having a hay day with. I wouldn’t want to try to have a book store and compete with Amazon, that’s for sure.
The super store was only the beginning. In our community, the community school houses are going away, and the big monstrous schools are being built in their place. Our little community school is closed down and the new mega-school opened. They consolidated 3 schools into one, an getting in and out of the school parking lot is organized (or not so organized) chaos. Classes are bigger, there are more teachers, it feels more like a middle or high school. The school is huge, has lockers now which most little community schools never had. It’s a nice building, but it’s mega, not community.
In the church world (you know where this is going) the small community church is going away, giving way to the mega church. In some ways, this is practical. Costs of land and buildings are utilities are going up, more people equal more giving to do more and afford the things the traditional church needs. Building and parking space, paid staff. In some ways, however, it has mirrored the culture and we have decided that bigger is better. In some ways, bigger is better, but it has made community more difficult. There has been a push for Sunday School and a bigger push for Small Groups to combat this problem. It’s more difficult, however, to get people connected. As the church grows, people begin to blend and disappear and we lose track of them.
Most churches have good intentions, they want to connect people. There have been great attempts with the Small Group concept, trying to get people connected into small groups. As the church grows, these groups are necessary to get people connected, and there are some who have succeeded. I wish every church could get people involved in the small groups, but the reality is the percentages of many churches from Sunday morning Worship attendance and small group/ Sunday School is 50% or lower.
I don’t put the blame on the church, but more on the shifting of society and their propensity to withdraw from true community. Social media, texting and instant messaging has created a false community. Younger generations are trading real community for MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). Games like WoW (World of Warcaft) and Eve online have taken the place of community for so many younger adults. Church has become optional, and creating a community becomes harder and harder. If a young person doesn’t grow up as part of a faith community, the opportunity for church to become a primary community is very difficult.
The church has taken ways to try to turn the tide, but it seems that the move to mega has made it more difficult. Perhaps we need to take initiative on our own to create community, and connect our community and our faith together in home bible studies, mission groups and fellowship communities. Individual initiative will be required to recreate our missing community.