The following article speaks of what I consider a crucial element of missional life: investing in the place you live, ideally over a long period of time. Neighbourly consistency and roots in a place sound like a fairy tale to many of us who have bounced from home to home and city to city for all types of reasons, but I would argue that commitment to a physical location is an incubator for holy inspiration and missional love. Let me know your thoughts: do you agree with Zach’s assessment of generational trends? Do you think putting down roots should be a core action for gospel-minded families?
Why Staying Might be the New Going
By Zach Yentzer
Something has changed in me recently. I thought I wanted to be a globetrotter; now I want to be a placemaker in the place where I am.
Time will tell, but when people look back at younger Gen Xers and older Millennials, they may point to us as generations at first enchanted with the idea of location independence. Chalk it up to a combination of unhappiness with life and career or the fact that social media brings the world right up to our face every day, but location independence is the idea that people can make a living through the internet and technology that is flexible of location and allows for being anywhere and everywhere and do what we care about most. The proliferation of e-products, platforms like eBay and Amazon, internet marketing, and books like “4 Hour Work Week” have all been manifestos and means to this end.
Throughout college and after, I was one of the enchanted. And don’t get me wrong, location independence is a thing and the age we live in opens up doors that weren’t available even a decade ago. I was told being a Millennial meant I was part of the “Born Global” generation, that traveling and wanderlust and seeing the world was just a part of who I was. That flexibility and independence were values most important to me as a Millennial, and the ability to be transitive was a gift to be guarded.
I assumed most Millennials felt and acted the same way. Until I no longer did. And, to my surprise, I wasn’t alone.
Maybe this is just a hunch, and that’s ok, but I think Millennials and Gen Z after them are signaling a distinct shift from location independence to a dependence on and commitment to place as a source of identity, purpose, collaboration, and change.
From Global and Mobile to Local and Connected
In “Staying is the New Going,” Alan Briggs explains it this way. “People everywhere are feeling this gravitational staying force…the tug to put down roots in places and spaces again. Cities are quickly becoming the lifeblood of mission. Our current places are becoming the next frontier, and neighborhoods are becoming parishes again.”
What’s behind it all?
“This is a return to something people understood before the global and digital age distracted us. Something in all of us wants to be connected to a place and the people who live in it. Those in our neighborhood and city are longing for it. Those I have long conversations with in the café spend much of their week chasing it. Those fully entrenched in civic clubs have invested in it. There’s a collision of something beautiful happening in our world that we cannot afford to miss.”
I think he’s right, because this sentiment pops up across the spectrum. It shows up when I talk to the young single college grad who has returned to my city on purpose to invest in it. Or when I’m with the young married couple who fell unexpectedly in love with a few mile radius downtown. Or when I’m brainstorming with the young father and mother who are starting social media campaigns to show off their neighborhood on Instagram. It’s not just the “settled” and “mature,” but even more beautiful, the unattached and flexible ones who are making conscious choices to make this place their place.
Gen Z and on
If Millennials are feeling this tug, the next younger generation has been expected to feel this way regardless. Calmer and more plodding, Gen Z is predicted to be more local and creative in one place. Not as optimistic as their older buddies, Gen Z will gladly invest in a community by sharing and inputting their expertise intergenerationally to repair what has been challenged economically, culturally, and in their security over the last 10-15 years.
This Russian word doesn’t really have an English counterpart, but roughly means “let us do work together in our space” (Alan Briggs again). As cities explode over the next few decades bringing the world together locally, and as younger generations appear to be making an early movement towards local collaboration and value of place and space, this may be the calling card for individuals and institutions alike that strive for meaningful impact.
I’ve always felt a global purpose and connection, and that’s not going anywhere. But now more than ever, I want to be invested in the people and places where I live. My city, Tucson, is home base. Whatever I do outside of it will come from within it. I want to know the baristas who work in the coffee shops, the shop owners who open the stores in the morning, and the names of the people I walk by. I want to be a part of making my city a place where people know they can launch their big idea. I want my city to prosper so that I and others will be fulfilled also.
I want to be able to look back in 20 years and say “I was a part of that.” I want to be a part of a tight-knit and innovative community that is committed to doing work together in our space.
These are new feelings, and I can’t wait to see what happens.