Oak Park & The Future of Our Church

January 9, 2005

OAK PARK & THE FUTURE OF OUR CHURCH by Ray Pritchard The Village of Oak Park published an article discussing the results of a recent community survey that polled residents on a wide variety of issues. Three factors struck me immediately: Over 50% of the respondents have lived here less than 10 years. Over 33% of the respondents have lived here less than 5 years. Property values are rapidly rising. 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: Above everything else, we live in a transient community. We can’t expect people to move to Oak Park and stay here for 30 or 40 years. We must accept that our church will have a high turnover rate no matter what we do. 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. 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-to’s of the Christian life Helping people discover and use their spiritual gifts Equipping believers to share Christ in their world. In a transient society, building relationships becomes more important than ever. We need to be more proactive in bringing people together. Housing prices may make it difficult for young couples with children to move to Oak Park without significant help from their parents. We will see a rise in the number of singles at all age levels in the years to come. In a rapidly-changing world, people seek islands of stability. If the church can become the social center for our families, we can keep people longer than we would otherwise. That means providing multiple opportunities for worship, teaching, fellowship, outreach, service and prayer, supported by vibrant ministries to children and teenagers. We must intentionally teach people about our history and heritage and why we have chosen to remain in Oak Park for 90 years. 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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