Susan McWilliams Barndt has a brief essay posted on the new site “Current” that talks about the implications of new sociological data showing that Americans are moving less and putting down deeper roots than they have in decades:
Because we know that the more people move, the more they tend to be focused on their individual selves rather than on their communities, favor “duty-free” relationships, have less of a feeling of obligation to other people, and have a lower overall sense of wellbeing.
We also know that the more people move, the less they—as studies show—participate in the governance of our common life. People who move more, vote less. They know less about their elected representatives and have less political knowledge in general. They are less likely to join neighborhood associations and to volunteer at the local level.
[…]While I’ve linked to data that backs all this up, I’m not sure we need social science to know that it’s true. It jibes with common sense: The longer we stay in one place, the deeper our relationships are—both with the other people who live in that place and with the place itself. The more we see our future as linked to that of our neighborhood or our place, the more we have reason to care for our neighborhood, our place, and the other creatures who inhabit it.
Do go read the whole essay. It’s worth it.
From my perspective, there’s an old saying in congregational leadership circles, that if you want to change the culture of a congregation or a place, you need to stay there for decades, not a few years. A few years can be an effective ministry if you see yourself setting up your successor for success, but the really impactful work is generally a result of the sorts of long-term relationships built in a place over decades.
Everything in the essay linked above tracks with that experience of congregation life. And I think that means we clergy sorts need to be thinking about that as we discern a call to a community going forward.