"The American front
porch represented the ideal of community in America
... [an] area that could be shared between the
sanctity of the home and the community outside." ~ Cook
in The Evolution of the American Front
Nobody sits on the front
porch anymore. Newer homes assign just enough space to
wipe your feet before walking in the door. Who has
time to sit on a porch? Besides, if we can't hang
a widescreen TV from the eaves, why would we want to sit
out there at all?
The demise of
the front porch represents more than an architectural
shift. It signifies a substantial social change for us
see the rise of coffee franchises like Starbucks and
Coffee Beanery as a substitute for the past practice of
"porch sitting." Folk sit casually around tables and
re-connect, often about nothing ... simply for the joy
of connecting. (The old sitcom Cheers turned a
local Boston bar into a "porch experience.")
According to Joseph Myers, we all want to belong
and we need to connect at various levels ...
at the public level, the social level, the personal level,
and the intimate level. When the church continues
to insist that the ultimate goal (or the most
important goal) is intimacy, it ignores something
fundamental about the way God wires us.
reserved for just a handful of people in our lives --
our spouse, our children, and one or two close friends.
We yearn for it (perhaps because many of us are not
particularly good at it) but we also need meaningful
connections at the other levels; the front porch
If Myers is correct, then
the persistent emphasis on intimate small group experiences
can only distract and discourage us. Most churches
enlist 30% or less of their congregation into small
groups -- and only a small percentage of those enlisted
develop deeply meaningful connections.
Rather than place all our eggs in that basket,
we might affirm those who connect with the church
just through worship service attendance, or explore the
significant and authentic role that social events play in
helping people "belong."
The church often devalues anything less than
Bible Study and intimate connections. And in so
doing, we hurt others and ourselves. We isolate
people and diminish our experience of authentic community.
While our homes have room for just a
doormat, can our churches create new "front porches"? As
we do, we'll have fewer insiders and outsiders, less "us"
and "them," and more connection. Perhaps it's time to
think outside the restrictive boxes of our own
In HOPE --