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NINE OPTIONS IN A CHANGING NEIGHBORHOOD

How a church can stay alive in the midst of a community in transition.

Consider a church similar to mine-white and middle class-that has served the people of its community faithfully for years. Then gradually, almost without notice, members begin moving away, some only a few miles, others long distances.

People begin talking about the new black or Hispanic family who just moved in down the block. The new folks seem nice, but they are different. Members dutifully stop by and invite their new neighbors to church. But becoming close friends seems a mutually low priority.

Soon, membership and attendance dip. Members begin to worry excessively and, ironically, become less active at reaching out to the community. When a few of the new neighbors actually visit, some members feel threatened: "If too many of those people join this church, I'm leaving!" Then again, some members enthusiastically open their arms to the newcomers.

As more minorities move into the neighborhood, church leaders are torn between embracing them, and thus changing the nature of the church, and ...

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