Saturday, May 12, 2012

What Happened to Grandpa’s Town?

In the stereotypical small American community, everyone knows everyone, and people have many interpersonal connections through school, church, and community organizations. In those communities, it is common for many people to be related by blood or marriage to a significant portion of the local population. All the natives know the unocial way of how things get done, which usually has a lot more to do with who a person knows than ocial policies and procedures. Small communities are often more conservative than urban areas. Small communities are normally more respectful of religion in general, though not everyone in the community will go to church. Such communities are often more Caucasian than urban areas, report lower crime rates, and frequently have a lower educational level than the national average. While many aspects of that stereotype were probably accurate in the past, small American communities are experiencing rapid change today. Though the old stereotypes of small towns and rural areas can still be found, they are increasingly the minority culture in many areas.

As well-educated and socially active families have grown frustrated with urban life and disenchanted with suburban sprawl, many are moving to small towns and rural areas. These newcomers often have a postmodern worldview. (For a brief description of postmodernism, click here.) Sometimes people who grew up in a small town or rural area and later moved to a city will move back to their hometowns and bring with them newly acquired postmodern ideas. But more often, postmodern people who move to a less-populated area are urbanites seeking to escape all the problems of urban living. With the advent of computer and Internet technology, urbanites can now live anywhere and retain the same income level that previously could be found only in the city. But it is not only newcomers who are changing the nature of small communities. The same technology that made it possible for outsiders to move in has also brought the outside world to small towns and rural communities. Teenagers from small towns and rural areas can now be just as connected and up-to-date on music, clothing styles, and philosophical concepts as their urban counterparts. Adults from rural and small towns are now exposed to more progressive ideas and concepts than ever before, and some of them are buying into these new ideas.

This has radically changed how people in small towns and rural areas think about life. Churches, and other community organizations, need to understand these changes in order to continue to serve their communities. This does not mean they have to agree with all these changes, or even accept the changes as “good.” But the changes must be acknowledged and taken into account if churches and community organizations are to remain connected to their communities.

Adapted from Terry Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.


  1. I read your post and I want to live in a town like that. I live in a suburb of Detroit and it is super busy. I would love to live in a small town and belong to a family town. My blog is Followed yours. Looking forward to future posts.

  2. James,
    Just read your blog. Great point. Jesus is coming back soon. So whether we live in a big city or a small town, we had better be ready!


  3. Sad but true.