Thursday, October 04, 2012

Third Places

One of the key emphases of the conference I attended last week of fellow ministers working with 50+ aged adults was the importance of evangelistic efforts and outreach directed toward this burgeoning population segment.  Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age daily.  Given the current economic challenges, not all of these folks are opting to walk away from their jobs, but the sheer numbers of emerging boomers are staggering.  Clearly we cannot ignore the spiritual needs of these individuals. 

One participant spoke about the concept of “third places” as a potential strategy for reaching these folks.  The concept of a third place was popularized by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place.  Third places (or third spaces as they’re sometimes referred to) designate locations where people gather informally when not at their first place (home) or their second place (work).  In these welcoming spots where folks gather to exchange ideas, pursue a hobby or pastime, or just to relax with friends and make new acquaintances, unique opportunities are offered for the church to engage its community missionally.

The younger crowd has pretty well claimed Starbucks as its own third place domain, but emerging boomers have plenty of other options out there from which to choose.  Baseball and soccer fields where their grandchildren practice, recreational and health centers, local restaurants, bookstores, community centers, and other public venues can be places where Christians cultivate meaningful relationships with neighbors on a neutral turf.  What we cannot afford to do is to simply rely on our traditional “come and hear” approaches to evangelism and outreach. 

Where are some spots that you would consider an ideal “third place” to meet and enter into meaningful relationships with non-Christians?