—Al Doyle, Retrofit Advisors
Place matters. Place matters to God. Place mattered to previous generations and place still matters to you and to me.
Place says a lot about who we are. Place often holds both our memories and our hearts. Place can shape who we will become. There were great periods of history where, over time, place and its character didn’t change much or changed ever so slowly. In other eras, such as the one we live in, place can change almost overnight.
Currently we are living in an era of rapid social, economic and physical change. We can see how this change impacts every part of our lives and how social change is most certainly is effecting the American church and our neighborhood congregations.
A vibrant urban neighborhood of the 1920s and 1930s would be prosperous, reflect elements of an “old world” culture where so many hailed from, and in most cases be homogenous. Neighborhoods often reflected the demographic and sociographic make-up of residents’ origins.
Place is also a major theme of our Christian heritage, and place is a paramount theme as God tells us His story —our story— through the volumes of the Bible. God’s love of place begins as He tells us how He created Heaven and earth, separated water from land and land from sky. He share how He and placed the very first human creations, Adam and Eve, in a great ‘neighborhood” of His own crafting, where their every need would be met— the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve discovered sin, their neighborhood and lives began to change and the changing has not yet stopped.
Our neighborhoods are constantly shifting. Some homes increase in value, while in other neighborhoods values go down. Many times our older neighborhoods are replaced with industry or commerce and currently we see the character of our communities change with the effects of the migration to the suburbs by established families, which, in turn, is followed by the cultural evolution that comes as new populations migrate into the older community from other regions other cultures.
These neighborhood changes are also rocking our neighborhood churches as the legacy families move away. These changes are also part of a trend of ever-shrinking church attendance nation-wide. But, these changes do not mean God cares less about the neighborhood where His church was first planted. What we at Retrofit want to stress is the reality that we, as church leaders and attenders, must study the changes to culture and community to find where God is at work and learn how our new neighbors can benefit from a closer connection to Him.
That bottom line is that bringing about change in our shrinking congregations requires Will, WONDER and some hard WORK! We need to be ready to relearn our neighborhoods, seeking where God is at work, and where our help and love is needed.
This is the reason we have created Retrofit. Our methodologies and experiences can help churches, urban, suburban and rural, relearn their neighborhood and find new ways to form vital connections and positive relationships that can bring about new life and vibrancy, right where you live and work. By applying a Theology of Place and a process of intentional listening you can begin to forge those new connections that bring new life and new vibrancy, right to your neighborhood.
We do this because PLACE MATTERS. It matters to God. And it matters to us.