Change is inevitable, often we don't enjoy it, often we'd rather it didn't happen. How do we as churches deal with it when our communities change? It's interesting mapping churches on data shine (brilliant census website) and looking at the area in which they are and whether they can or do reach those areas. Many churches in city or town centres have seen the areas around them change and as a result their members move out to the suburbs and they become commuter churches. They have few or no one living in the area around the church instead their members move in and their mission field becomes their networks.
That's fine if you are happy to reach those who work alongside members, though I can't help but notice that often these same people work a further car trip away from their homes and therefore encouraging colleagues to come to church becomes even more difficult because of the double disconnect and distance involved. The commuter church often struggles to reach the area in which it has it's church building because it is not connected to the community. It may drop off fliers and even do door knocking but primarily relational connections are few and far between so few, if any, come from the surrounding area. Over time the needs of the church differ even more from those unknown in the area around the church and the disconnect grows. Which is why many churches cannot reach their neighbourhoods.
We planted into Hayfield because we wanted to reach the community here with the gospel and there were those who would only be reached by us being in the community. Datashine shows significant pockets of the community that have no access to a car, work in manual occupations and are higher than normal on the deprivation index. But in the two and half years we have been here we have seen the area change. An new estate of 4 and 5 bed houses is going up fast, when it is finished with over 300 houses the area will have changed markedly in its socio-economic make up. Datashine won't pick this up until after the 2021 census, but it is very real on the ground now and growing as more houses are built every day. The challenge for us as a church is to think about how does this shifting changing community affect us and our mission. We want to be grace in the community to the glory of God. How do we do that? Do we do it differently?
Churches cannot just afford to be network churches. Andy Paterson shared the statistic that 156 people will die without Christ in Yorkshire each day, death doesn't see class distinctions neither does the gospel, neither must we.