10 Ideas for Living Missionally in the Suburbs
Will Samson, a fellow blogger, friend and author who cares about the suburbs linked to an article by Chris Smith. Chris put together 10 ideas for living missionally in the burbs. I like em. I am drowning in work at the moment. If i had more time, i would add some commentary and share some of my own ideas… but i’ll let chris speak for me. He writes,
Ten Ways to be the People of God in Suburbia
by Chris Smith
1) Live with others from your church community
Whether you share your home with another person or family, or whether you have several families that have homes in close proximity or both, sharing life together is perhaps the most powerful (i.e., going against the grain of suburban culture) way to be the body of Christ in suburbia. If you can’t live together, at least find a way to share resources (power tools, lawn mowers, children’s clothes/toys, etc).
2) Work Less!
One of the major powers that enslaves suburbia is the idolization of the career. There are many ways to pay the bills that do not involve a 9-5 job, and even within a 9-5 job, there are ways to work less (turning down promotions, taking unpaid leave, etc.) Working less will free you to serve your church community, your family, your neighbors, etc. It will also spur creativity: finding a solution for working less, finding a way to “make ends meet” financially, etc.
3) Throw out the television
Another (and perhaps larger power) that enslaves suburbia is consumerism. You’ll be amazed at how your desire for things ebbs as you take the TV out of the picture. If you can’t bring yourself to kill the television, at least take steps to lessen its influence (get rid of cable, only use it for movies, put it on a cart that can be wheeled in and out of a closet, etc.) Throwing out the television will also stimulate your creativity.
4) Drive less
Suburban culture is also enslaved to the automobile. Find ways to loosen those bonds (much more difficult in suburbia than in urban areas). Share a vehicle with others in your church community (much easier if you are doing #1 above). Invest in a good bicycle. Walk. There was a segment on “60 minutes” a few weeks ago about how much we miss when we zip around in automobiles. Walking and/or biking will help you be more attentive to your surroundings
5) Have a garden / grow food
Suburban life is often very shut off from the food cycle (Food comes from the grocery store, of course!). Homegrown food is more healthy, it gives you a good excuse to be outside (see #7 below), and it provides you with a resource to share generously with your church community and your neighbors. Phil Kenneson outlines a number of horticultural lessons for the people of God in his intro to LIFE ON THE VINE that are additional benefits of this practice.
6) Get to know your neighbors / listen for their needs
To be human is to be poor. Or in other words, everyone has needs. The challenge of suburbia is that there are many more ways to conceal that poverty, and similarly that it will take more effort to get into a position where a neighbor can reveal their needs. Be intentional about building relationships. Share meals, play poker, have block parties, whatever it takes.
7) Be outside as much as possible.
Another temptation of suburbia – fueled by individualism – is that of the house as an impenetrable fortress. Dissolve this temptation by eating, playing, relaxing outside. This practice is also one avenue to interact with your neighbors.
8) Do not fence in your yard
All apologies to Robert Frost, but fences do not make good neighbors, and in fact they often keep us from making good human neighbors. This is a corollary to #7, the fence is a major component of the impenetrable fortress syndrome; it protects our privacy and keeps out our “evil” neighbors. It often is a statement of distrust. If you must have a fence (to corral a dog for instance) make it as low and as permeable (i.e., not blocking off the view) as you can get away with.
9) Take a stand against the greed of mega-corporations
Whenever possible, resist buying from domineering mega-corporations (e.g., Wal-mart, McDonalds, Starbucks, and others). These corporations destroy local economies and have little or no concern for the environment. Buy as much as you can from businesses that are as local as possible (family-owned businesses are preferable to local chains, local chains are preferable to regional chains, and regional chains are preferable to global corporations.)
10) Utilize and support non-commercial public spaces (parks, libraries, colleges, etc.)
This point is another corollary of #7 above. We must utilize and show our support for these public spaces, lest they be conquered by the powers of individualism (by becoming private property) or by consumerism (by becoming commercial or industrial property). This is also a wonderful way to foster relationships with our neighbors.
Some quick thoughts from me:
Regarding #1) Live with others… This is something I’ve wanted us to do as a family in some way or another. Even if it meant buying a duplex and having together but separate living spaces for two families. We would then have some scheduled meals and family times together and volunteer times together. I’ve also wanted to have the church buy a house and make it a suburban community house where we can house people in the church who want to be a blessing to a direct neighborhood… anyone want to buy us a house?
Regarding #2) Work Less. This is great. How about this: Take a sabbath. I’m trying that out now and its been amazing the couple times i have done it. My son bragged to a friend the other day “On Tuesday my dad stays home and plays with me all day.” Never mind that he had the wrong day (its actually Thursday this week) but I can’t tell you how awesome its been. Fact is, we work way too much to be with our families and to serve others. If are working too much to serve others than, well, we are working too much.
Okay, I need to get back to work… more from me later maybe…