Dr. Ray Pritchard Christian Blog and Commentary

Oak Park and the Future of Our Church

  • Dr. Ray Pritchard
    Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, an Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 29 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain,… More
  • 2005 Jan 04

The Village of Oak Park published an article discussing the results of a recent community that polled residents on a wide variety of issues. Three factors struck me immediately:

1) Over 50% of the respondents have lived here less than 10 years.
2) Over 33% of the respondents have lived here less than 5 years.
3) The 60302 zip code (central Oak Park) is the strongest spot in the Chicago region in terms of price appreciation, registering an 88.2 percent increase in the last five years.

I've been musing to myself about what this means for our church as we look to the future. Here are a few things that come to mind:

1) Above everything else, we are living in a transient community. The days are long gone when we could expect people to move to Oak Park and stay here for 30 or 40 years.
2) We must accept that our church will have a high turnover rate no matter what we do.
3) That means we need to find ways to minister to people quicker. We have to figure that many of our people will come to Calvary, stay a few years, and then move away. Whatever we're going to give them, we've got to do it faster and better than before.
4) We need a stronger focus on the five key essentials:

Vital, life-transforming worship
Caring relationships with other believers
Solid grounding in Bible doctrine and the basic how-tos of the Christian life
Helping people discover and use their spiritual gifts
Equipping believers to share Christ in their world

4) In a transient society, building relationships becomes more important than ever. In the old days, if you assumed that people would be around for 30 years, you knew that most folks would find their own circle of friends eventually. Today we need to be more proactive in bringing people together.
5) Housing prices may make it difficult for young couples with children to move to Oak Park without significant help from their parents.
6) We will a rise in the number of singles at all age levels in the years to come.
7) In a rapidly-changing world, people seek islands of stability. If the church can become the social center for people, we can hold people longer than we would otherwise. That means providing multiple opportunities for teaching, growth, fellowship, worship, prayer, and times of relaxation and recreation.
8) We must intentionally teach people about our history and heritage and why we have chosen to remain in Oak Park for 90 years.
9) Long-range planning means thinking ahead 3-5 years, not 10-15 years. No one can say with certainly what Oak Park will be like in 2020. That means thinking about the future with a combination of creativity, intentionality and flexibility.

In the Old Testament, the people of God followed the cloud wherever it led them. Sometimes the cloud stayed in one place for months, sometimes it moved every few days. I have a feeling our cloud will be moving a lot in the years ahead.

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