A lot of you know this already, but I’ll repeat it again: I love the Steele Creek section of Charlotte. We’ve lived in the same house since our arrival at Good Shepherd in 1999, and I like almost everything about this unique corner of our region.
Yet I have been thinking this week about how it is that our geography shapes our ministry. Factors ranging from our terrain to our socio-economics all help mold Good Shepherd into the kind of community it is. Here are five ways in which that’s true:
5. Bordering The State Line. Approximately 40% of Good Shepherd attenders live in Fort Mill, Tega Cay, and Lake Wylie. We celebrate that. We also have to navigate what that means when the children of the church move into middle and high school, and peer groups replace parents as primary spiritual & social influences. For example, as I spent time with our student ministries, I realize that those students represented at least five different high schools in two different states. Our Zoar Campus has moved our footprint closer to Fort Mill while still technically located in Charlotte’s good ole 28278.
4. Subdivisions Catering To Young Families. Our house is case in point: we have a small family room, small dining room, and a large, upstairs bonus room. Perfect for a family with two children under ten, which is what we had when we moved in. (We still love the house, but for other reasons now). Unlike South End or Uptown, our section of Charlotte has relatively few young & hipster professionals and many young families trying to forge their way in life. In spite of that geographical obstacle, however, we’ve seen a major influx of young adults in their late teens and early twenties. Sometimes I think “why do they want to listen to a 58 year old guy talk?”
3. Parachurch Ministries Surround Us. We are a stone’s throw from both SIM Missionary headquarters and Gordon-Conwell Seminary. We’re also close to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. As a result, we have a large number of people come to our church who are in some sense “ministry professionals.” This has been almost unambiguously positive — giving us leadership, wisdom, and theological balance.
2. Natural Diversity. Our part of town has people of all races and cultures. It hasn’t happened by any mandate; it has simply happened. And while many of our neighbor churches have remained single-race, Good Shepherd along with our friends at Steele Creek Church of Charlotte and Christ the King Lutheran have managed to become full color congregations.
1. Part rural / Part suburban. Three minutes in one direction from my house is the Rivergate Shopping Center — the best in the city. Three minutes in the other direction and you’re in the middle of a arboreal research facility that is permanently protected from development. It is truly the best of all worlds, as natural serenity surrounds modern convenience. People continue to be drawn to this pace of life and this slice of the city.