Google is your friend. Did you know that you can profile census information? You can profile single mothers, foreign language speakers, Poverty level. Mission Insights is a valuable resource that many big denominations use.
This practice is known as “mapping”. Mapping is the practice of identifying the people you are going to reach the city. You plot a digital map, and strategize how you will reach specific neighborhoods. You can use google maps, edit them in photoshop or mark them with skitch. Every church planting map should have three sections: geographic, social, and spiritual.
Geographic – what neighborhoods are represented, what are they called, how have they formed as distinct communities, and where do they stop and start
Social – is there a racial identity, social economic profile, or some other uniting factor?
Spiritual – what is the predominant make up of spiritual beliefs in these communities?
You want to map out the areas known as paths, such as commuter routes, bike paths, walking strips, and any main arteries that people use to traffic. You also want to identify the “nodes” or places where people congregate. You will also need to map out districts (we call them neighborhoods or sections of a city) which are mapped by borders. A border might be a street, or a hill, or a railroad track where one neighborhood ends and another begins. Lastly, look for high places. These don’t have to be religious, but are considered the sacred spaces of a culture. In Washington D. C. it would be the White House, the Smithsonian, or anywhere around that area. It might be a town’s stadium.
These are places associated with identity and yet, communicate concepts bigger than an individual. Once you know the outlay of the city, you’ll begin to understand how people think, move, and congregate. The next step is to travel their paths, congregate in their areas, and learn from their sacred spaces. The paths are how people move around.
Where they congregate is a great way to reach them, and their values are learned from their “sacred spaces”. The latter don’t have to be churches, mosques, or Buddhist temples, either. In Athens, it was Mars Hill, so Paul went there.
When I’m working locally with a team, I take my planters out to laundromats, bars, parks, plazas, and other places to study how to reach that particular place. Whoever comes up with the best analysis gets to lead a smaller fraction of the team there. It’s an exercise to teach planters to strategize how to meet people in areas where they never thought church was possible. I call it ministry in public places, and it’s what Paul excelled at. Like Francis Chan said, “If the church lost their buildings, would we still have a church?” Almost everything we’ve learned to do is confined within our own buildings. Take that away, and most ministers would be lost.”
You will also notice tribes. Harley Davidson riders are a tribe, as are apple product users. Cyclists in Portland, Oregon belong to an undefined community in which the bonds are strong. Gamers, Techies, cosplayers, hip hop enthusiasts can all be identified by appearance because they adopt the tribal dress, language, humor, rituals, and customs of their particular subculture.
What would a church look like in Daytona Beach that wanted to reach bikers? After doing a funeral for a biker buried at a biker bar in the heart of the Angeles mountains, I realized that a biker church would be based around riding. If I planted a biker church, I would plant a church that you had to ride a few hours to get to. It would have to be outside of Daytona. In fact, it would probably need to move around and change venue to give them new opportunity to experience new rides. It’s part of their identity and a way that they bond. When they arrived at the distant venue, there would be lunch served, and we would have a service. Therefore, it wouldn’t be in a city, and it would have to be in a bar. My pulpit would be the tank of a motorcycle standing upright with the handlebars coming out to hold the stand, headlight facing out. I would preach, but I’d make an effort to make them laugh. And as the Spirit came upon me, I’d preach in the hopes that the Spirit would fall like a sledgehammer with the gentle word that would break the bone. By the end of our meeting, they’d be weeping, and laying hands on each other. The biker church inside my head is pretty cool, and I’d think I was a genius if I hadn’t seen it unfold before my eyes at a biker tavern hours away in the mountains where I did the funeral. They listened to the gospel, laughed, wept, and came up to me afterwards, broken, and hungry for spiritual things.
You can reach any tribe if you’re willing to adopt that tribes customs for the sake of the gospel.
What would an outreach church to Astronomy enthusiasts be like? We’d arrange nighttime stargazing events. We’d bring somebody way to smart for the likes of us to come and talk about the cosmos, quantum physics, speed of light, power of God stuff. We’d have him bless the Creator and blow our minds Louie Giglio style. He’d present something in the vein of Yancey, or C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. We’d all be laying on our backs, on sleeping bags, by the way, looking up at the stars the whole time. We’d take some questions from skeptics. Then we’d play music (maybe something by Mozart, Wagner, or Vaughn Williams) and ask people to spend that time taking in the wonder, tripping on the fact that the God who made that universe also made our minds to compose and enjoy masterpieces like that. They’d have time to respond to what they’d heard, by looking out into that vast universe and sneaking in a prayer just in case for the God of the Universe to make himself to them. They wouldn’t know it, but we’d be praying that something like David’s nighttime worship session under the stars in Psalm 8 would take place.
How would I reach fishermen on the end of the pier? You get the picture. I could do this all day…
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.