On many levels, the American Church is moving to the way of the "house church", and it has a great momentum to reach many people. We are seeing many Christians learn what it might look like to be followers of Christ as they love and serve their neighborhoods. We are seeing more and more large churches OF small groups instead of churches WITH small groups. The outreach of the church is now being put in the hands of the church as opposed to the church leaders alone. Smaller groups and house churches are turning their eyes and hearts toward their neighborhoods in order to learn what the incarnational gospel might yield in comparison to the attraction gospel that has been the primary model utilized by the American Church to this point.
While this excites me to see where the American Church is moving the gospel, I fear it STILL misses the mark in reaching a college and young adult population. The move into neighborhoods will certainly serve to reach a postmodern, post-Christian society and culture, but let's not forget that post modernity and post-Christianity is NOT a generation.
This means while college students and young adults most often fall into the postmodern, post-Christian mindset, to reach a demographic I love and my heart breaks for, there is yet another reality to be mindful of.
College students and most young adults don't really have neighborhoods they live in for long. This is a pretty transient period of life where they live in different homes from month to month. This is a time of life lived in semesters as opposed to years. The rest of life is lived outside the house elsewhere. Home is where the couch is!
The sense of neighborhood is lost on the college student and young adult. So a house church mentality works well if your population has a house or spends any significant time in the house they have.
Now again, I love the house church model, and I think the American Church needs to continue moving in that direction for sure, bu my question, as a college pastor, is how do you move this model for a demographic without neighborhoods?
The answer lies in what college students and young adults DO have. Networks!
Thought the idea of a neighborhood may be lost, there is a strong sense of network in this demographic. We still frequent different areas such as coffee shops, bars, campuses, and clubs. These places have become different networks each person is connected to.
When you frequent those places, you become 'a regular'. Once I became a regular at Tupelo Coffee House, I started to recognize the other regulars. Once I began to recognize the other regulars, I began to notice them outside the coffee shop in other networks I am connected to. I recently recognized a Tupelo barista when I was walking around the monthly art walk downtown.
The whole interest of our networks is watching them overlap. "I didn't know you came here to this coffee shop!"
In order to begin really reaching the college and young adult population, we need to move from the neighborhoods to the networks. House churches need to be in coffee shops and bars and clubs and various other networks.
In a generation that has not yet settled down into neighborhoods, you have to be a neighbor in their networks.