Where are We? Discovering our Community

In the first blog post, we looked at the history of West Lynchburg. With decades of growth and stability, the church has made a significant impact in the community. Yet with the growth of the city and changing community surrounding the church property, the past few decades have seen a decline in average worship attendance and membership. What once was the growing west end of the city of Lynchburg is now an urban lower income setting. To reach the community, we must discovery who now lives in the area.  

Demographics studies were obtained from the City of Lynchburg, Baptist General Association of Virginia, SCAN/US, and MissionInsite, LLC. The data gives information for a 10-mile radius 5-mile radius, 3-mile radius, and a 1-mile radius from the church property. For our purposes, we will focus on the 5-mile radius.

Figure 5: 5-mile Radius of WLBC provided by the Center for Ministry Research and Innovation – Baptist General Association of Virginia.

According to Scan/US 2020 Estimates,[1] there are 92,225 people living within the 5-mile radius. The data reveals nearly seventy percent (70%) of the population is forty-five years and younger. In fact, twenty-seven (27%) are under the age of eighteen. There is a young population surrounding the church. This is in great contrast to the current membership of the church that is seventy percent (70%) over the age of 45. The City of Lynchburg Executive Summary[2] reveals median age in the community is 38. When it comes to religious involvement the American Bible Society ranks Lynchburg as the 3rd Most Bible Minded City in America.[3]  Yet, the BGAV report also shows only 23% of the community attend church at least once a month.

Beyond being a younger population surrounding the church, we will explore further their characteristics and interests. The MissionImpact Guide[4] delves deeper into the culture. It categorizes the population in various subgroups with the top four in this community called Colleges and Cafes, Urban Survivors, Hope for Tomorrow, and Digital Dependents. We will evaluate each one with the greatest community representation to the least represented.

The Colleges and Cafes group are young singles and recent college graduates living in a college community. Their religious perspective is “Looking for Heroes of Faith.” Their common spiritual issues are feelings of guilt, anxieties about abuse and shame. This group has a mixed reaction to the church. If leaning more liberal, they will gravitate to more mainline denominations. If leaning more conservative, they will gravitate to evangelical or independent churches. Many have given up on church altogether. They prefer mega-churches or micro-communities, but tend to avoid medium sized, traditional family churches of 100-300 people. Church Young Adult Ministries often struggle because they are too generic. When this group is committed to church life, it is usually a mission activity or public cause that motivates them. Worship preferences place a high emphasis on mission-connectional[5] and coaching[6] worship, and less on caregiving[7] and education[8] worship.

The next largest segment of the population is called Urban Survivors. This group is comprised of middle-age, older singles and single parents living in a modest urban setting. Their religious perspective is “Hoping prayer works.” The common spiritual issues are felling lonely and frustrated, with anxieties about guilt and death. Urban Survivors may be widowed or divorced, and some may have children living with them. Their striving to improve their life for themselves and their neighborhoods. Often, they have very materialistic aspirations. Alongside their faith in God’s purpose, they also believe that money is the key to a better life. They are willing to work boring jobs if it will help them make money. They would like for their children to have things they never had. When it comes to religion, faith is important but systematic theology is not. They often approach their faith more pragmatically than dogmatically. Faith is optimistic about this life believing God is active in their personal and community experience. Worship preferences for this group places a high emphasis on educational,[9] inspirational,[10] and mission-connectional[11] worship.

The third most common group is called Hope for Tomorrow. These are young, lower-income single parents in second-city apartments. Their religious perspective is “If you happen to meet God, tell Him I need a break!” Their common spiritual issues are feelings of anger and frustration, anxieties about fate and abandonment. This group is more likely to participate in a local church. Faith is important to this group and they enjoy volunteering. Worship preferences for the Hope for Tomorrow group is transformational[12] and coaching[13] worship.

The fourth most populous groups is called Digital Dependents. These are a mix of generation Y and X singles who live digital-driven, urban lives. Their religious perspective is “Looking for Heroes of the Faith.” Their common spiritual issues include feelings of guilt, anxieties about abuse and shame. Religious organizations have difficulty connecting with Digital Dependents due to their progressive attitudes and liberal values. Traditional evangelism methods, Sunday School, and worship have been ineffective in reaching this group. These creative multi-taskers spend more time in the virtual world than the real one, causing the human interactions at church to appear irrelevant. They are open to connect through sophisticated, interactive websites and internet cafes and chatrooms. Just like the College and Café group, this group’s worship preferences are mission-connectional[14] and coaching[15] worship.

There are less represented groups beyond the four identified. As time progresses, groups will change and new groups will emerge. Yet, as of now, we have identified a large number of singles and single parents living within the community that do not currently reflect the membership of West Lynchburg. Each of these individuals and households need a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. For West Lynchburg to be relevant, vital, and continue for generations to come, we must understand and make intentional steps to reach these groups of people. Without compromising the gospel, the church must once again embrace the mission and mandate of the Lord Jesus to make disciples of all generations.
Another day… Another opportunity…
Pastor Chris Jordan


[1] Scan/US 2020 Estimates. July 31, 2020.

[2] Executive Summary: Tracts Demographics Report City of Lynchburg, VA

[3] American Bible Society. The Most Bible Minded Cities in America. Last updated August 2015, accessed July 28, 2021, https://americanbible.org/features/americas-most-bible-minded-cities.

[4] Thomas Brand, Mission Impact Guide 3.0, MissionInsite, LLC. Last updated July 2020.

[5] Missional-connection worship is unity of action and reflection, all about outreach and volunteer empowerment.

[6] Coaching is informal, dialogical, topical, practical coaching on how to live better and more faithfully.

[7] Caregiving is slow, meditative, family-feel with pastoral prayer, children’s time, and senior celebrations.

[8] Educational is consistent liturgy, expository preaching, focus on doctrine, ethics, and history.

[9] See footnote 10.

[10] Inspirational is uplifting music, motivational speaking, focus on joy, optimism, and encouragement.

[11] See footnote 7.

[12] Transformational is spontaneous, expectant, personal transformation with High Power interventions.

[13] See footnote 8.

[14] See footnote 7.

[15] See footnote 8.