Now that you have a better understanding of what church shopping is and how you can make it an intentional experience, its time to learn about how you can apply it to your local context.
When looking for a new church in a new place, it is always incredibly important to learn a bit about the local culture. (To learn more about Naperville, go to the About Naperville page) Local culture is always apart of the local church, so issues within the town will most likely also be issues faced by the churches within the town. For example, Naperville faces a mental health crisis. This problem has become known within the local congregations. As a result, some of these congregations have banded together to create Samaracare, a christian counseling ministry. This is one of many examples of how churches are always responding to their local cultural context.
On a church shopping level, “individuals engage [their] local ecology as they make their affiliation choices1.” This means that while church shoppers engage with various churches within a certain area, they are also immersing themselves within the culture of the local community.
So what does church shopping look like within the cultural context of Naperville? And how does it affect the experience?
Perhaps the biggest factor, the sheer size of the city of Naperville has rendered the size of congregations to averages much higher than the national average. As someone who grew up in Naperville, I was very surprised to learn that most churches in North America have congregations under 100 people. Many of the churches in Naperville have membership well into 100s, and quite a few reach over 1,000 total members. However, since weekly attendance looks different than church membership, the numbers on this website are mostly based off of how many people are actually in attendance week after week.
As a fairly secularized city, Naperville does not observe Sunday as a sacred day. Therefore, community events and local kids sports games often occur on Sunday mornings. People are spread thin, and church goers often only attend twice a month at best. As a church shopper in Naperville, its important to note that an absence of people in the pews doesn’t necessarily represent the amount of church goers in the city.
Secularization of the city
Despite the large number of churches reaching megachurch status, Naperville is a surprisingly secular city. With some churches claiming that nearly 60-70% of people in Naperville do not have a church home2, the secular culture remains dominant. As a result, many churches (especially those on the larger side) are focused on reaching that 60-70%.
The Content of the Worship Services
Despite the diversity of worship experiences across Naperville, every church responds to the town’s culture in different ways. The culture of Naperville bleeds into the worship services of its churches. When asked how this happens in those services, pastors of each church answered in different ways. Many of them talked about the cultural relevancy of their sermons and sermon-series. Others talked about remaining relevant musically to congregants of all ages. But above all, was the conversation of community. The church is made up of the people within it. Since we as the human race are diverse, even in Naperville, our diversity bears diverse styles of worship:
Some churches, such as Wheatland Salem and Our Saviours think very critically about the people in the pews. They tailor their worship experience using language and music that reaches the types of people that walk into their doors. But they also try to use language that is universally accessible to any Naperville citizen.
Living Water Evangelical is a predominantly Chinese church, with both Mandarin and English services. Nearly 20% of Naperville’s population is of Asian descent. As such, Asian churches such as Living Water Evangelical have begun to crop up across Naperville.
Calvary is a megachurch that has entire congregations of Spanish-Speaking people and Asian-Indians. While their regular services are also diverse, these specialized congregations are a result of churches striving to provide ways for people of specific cultural backgrounds to connect and worship with one another.
Other churches such as Community Christian and Good Shepherd, work very meticulously to craft sermons that are relevant and purposeful for people living in Naperville today. In many churches you will hear sermons that discuss the mental health crisis and the heroin highway. But you will also observe these churches taking action against these issues, forming ministries dedicated to promoting assisting mental health facilities and having conversations with the Naperville police department about actively working and serving in the community.
In light of all of all of these different approaches to involving local culture within worship services, its clear that the churches of Naperville are all defined by the city’s culture. While there are many differences between these churches, they are all united in their connection to the Naperville community.
To learn about these churches and all of the things they’re doing in the community, click here.
1. Eiesland, Nancy L. A Particular Place: Urban Restructuring and Religious Ecology in a Southern Exurb. Rutgers University Press, 2000. pg. 11.
2. “Our Vision & Values.” Good Shepherd Church Naperville, www.goodshepherd-naperville.org/about/our-vision-values/.