DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

O Give me a Home…

Written by: on May 15, 2015

The concept of space is intriguing and anything but obvious. Space helps to define who we are, how we think, how we live, how we perceive, how we set priorities, etc. There are so many aspects from Valentine’s book Social Geographies: Space and Society that piquet my interest, but one in particular hits close home. The concept of space as understood from a rural or urban perspective continue to amaze me.

Growing up, I never wanted to live in town; not enough space. For me, wide-open space equaled freedom, independence, and anonymity. What a shock it was to find out than in a rural area, neighbors (even if they are miles away) know your business while people living in cities of millions often feel lonely and unknown.

I have had the opportunity to work with people who are first generation in the city. In one generation, the children begin to be shaped by the city in ways that their parents don’t understand. At the opposite extreme, I have watched people move to “the country” with romantic ideas of what it will be like, only to find themselves disillusioned. Space is an imagined concept. We sometimes forget that when we enter a space, our perception of the space is shaped by factors other than just the space itself. We can also neglect to realize that just as space shapes us, we shape the space around us.

Michigan’s thumb is a rural hidden treasure. It is hidden because you have look for it. Due to its location, you don’t ever pass through the thumb on your way someplace else. I have known several people who visited and fell in love, either with the landscape, the laid-back life, or with a local farmer. There is a concept of country living that captures their heart. Unfortunately, these concepts are more-often-than-not a perception created by those who wish to “sell” the country. “Cultural meanings of rurality are employed by the media, advertising and other forms of popular culture to sell products and places.”[1] They arrive with romantic notions of a home where the buffalo roam (yes, we have buffalo farms) and the deer and the wild turkey play (sorry, no antelope). “City folk” arrive with a concept of rural space portrayed in the media, but are soon confronted with the smell of manure. When the deer “play” on the road and wreck their car, it is no longer cute. Soon, the local farmers receive complaints from their new neighbors about dust, noise and smell. The farmer’s wife wakes up to find that she married not only a farmer, but a farm that demands constant attention and that a family vacation is out of the question when running a dairy operation. As more people move to the country, they bring their “space” with them, and thus the “country” begins to change. People would rather adapt their new space to themselves rather than be shaped by new paradigms of living. “Rather than rurality being defined in terms of function or particular society it is now understood as a social construct.”[2]

Spatial concepts not only affect issues like rural/urban existence, they challenge the Christian church. As we consider ministry, it is important to remember that each person brings his/her own concept of space. This will affect what our services should look like, how we engage in fellowship, styles of worship, etc. I wonder how many times we see people go through the revolving doors of the church without engaging and becoming part of the community simply because the spatial dynamics are foreign to them. Understanding those whom we are trying to reach should cause us to create space that is welcoming and allows others to understand who they are in this space we call “church”.

 

[1] Gill Valentine, Social Geographies: Space and Society (New York, N.Y.: Prentice Hall, 2001), 260.

[2] Ibid., 255

About the Author

mm

Brian Yost

Brian is a husband and father of three. He works with Free Methodist World Missions and is currently serving in Latin America.

4 responses to “O Give me a Home…”

  1. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Brian,

    I really enjoyed your insights on space, “We can also neglect to realize that just as space shapes us, we shape the space around us.” Thats important to remember for every believer that we bring Christ with us as we enter any space and that shapes others.

    Also in reading your post I started thinking of the New Jerusalem, the Holy City. So is there no rural life in heaven? Hmmmm….

  2. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Brian, Ed Rotz is a District Superintendent in The Wesleyan Church for the Kansas District and explained a “space” issue to me long before I even new space issues were issues. Ed told me, in a conversation surrounding the Urban Urgency Campaign within The Wesleyan Church, which is a major push to go to the city-centers across America, that country folk like the country because the think they can see everything and they don’t like the city because they do not think they can see anything . . . While city folk like the city because there is so much to see and they don’t like the country because there is nothing to see. It seems like it is definitely all about perspective, upbringing, and what you are use too. There are definitely implications for the Church to consider when it comes to space and how it can greatly affect vision, mission, and strategy. Good post, good read.

  3. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Brian,
    I grew up in the suburbs, right outside of Columbus. Today, I live in a small town between suburban and rural life. This is my place of comfort. It feels like home. When I travel, I find that there are certain cities or regions that just feel better. I connect with the people more easily, and the place resonates with me. You mention that “spatial concepts not only affect issues like rural/urban existence, they challenge the Christian church.” Too often, I hear talk of “the church model”. Maybe we have been so busy creating the church model that we have failed to create different types of space for people where they can be comfortable to explore their faith and to build relationships.

  4. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    “Understanding those whom we are trying to reach should cause us to create space that is welcoming and allows others to understand who they are in this space we call ‘church’.” When I walked into church this morning I was greeted by a woman, the same woman every Sunday, who hugs each person as they walk into church. Mind you, we have a 1500 member church; granted, she only does one door, so she gets about a third of them. It makes it a long wait to get inside the sanctuary, as well as a long time getting out – she does the same after the service. I’ll be honest. I find it a bit frustrating. However, I recall someone who said to me, “you know, Mary, for some folks, it might be the only the hug they get all week.” I think this might be one way to be welcoming as one woman has taken it upon herself to make a “big” church feel a bit smaller and warm.

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