Sense of Place and Zone of Influence: Geographies of Congregational Life in Minneapolis Churches

Team Members/Contributors

Mark D. Bjelland Gustavus Adolphus College Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

This project explores the relationship between a congregation’s sense of place and its zone of influence. We propose a study of ten Minneapolis-area congregations, Lutherans and evangelicals, small churches and megachurches, city and suburban churches. We propose to map each congregation’s “zone of influence” in the world, first by mapping and analyzing the location of its member’s residences, and then by mapping other key locations in the life of the congregation. Spatial analyses will assess the geographic reach, clustering, and demographic diversity of congregational membership. We will also examine each congregation’s “sense of place,” through content analysis of church publications and worship services, interviews with leaders, and cognitive mapping exercises. A congregation’s sense of place is how it collectively understands the missional significance of its location, the territory, for which it is responsible, and its rootedness in particular place. This work fills an important niche by bringing the perspectives and techniques of geographical analysis to the study of congregational life. The results of this proposed study will help congregations think strategically about their place, seek its shalom, and be Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.