I was tickled to see this picture posted on suburban pastor Joe Thorn's blog:
The magazine article "Is It Time to Move to the Burbs?" is from Details magazine, and it chronicles a trend of city residents relocating to suburbia because of suburbia's growing attractiveness. The article notes that older categories of "city" and "suburb" are blurring, and that since 1950, over 90% of metropolitan growth has taken place in suburbia. One author is cited as saying, "From a cultural standpoint, cities are becoming less interesting and the suburbs are increasingly where the action is."
Suburban contexts are becoming more culturally, socioeconomically and religiously diverse, which of course has implications for suburban mission and ministry. I suspect that as more urban professionals migrate to suburbs, we will see the need for more culturally creative and intellectually engaged churches doing in suburbia what Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church is doing in Manhattan, as they put it, renewing the city socially, spiritually and culturally. New suburban communities are actually recovering some of the original urban ideals that many cities started out as, with more of a sense of place, village identity and local community interdependence.
In many ways, the challenge for suburban churches cuts at least two ways. On the one hand, we need to contextualize our ministries in ways that connect with indigenous suburban residents. On the other, we also need to keep in mind all the new arrivals who may be relocating from either urban or rural contexts, with perhaps entirely different sets of expectations. The better we can help our new suburban neighbors navigate the suburban environment - and bring to suburbia all the gifts and expertise gained from other contexts - the better off both our churches and our suburbs will be.