Radius = 1/Attendance

Our new place is in a particularly difficult place to find. No secret passages or anything, just a hard-to-describe part of a less-than-well-known street. Most taxi drivers don’t know how to get there. So I usually have to explain the first couple of turns for them, and by then they normally figure it out. An average taxi ride here is about a dollar fifty or so. Three bucks is about as expensive as it ever gets, unless you’re going to the airport. The buses, though, are only 13 cents. Which makes the bus the hands-down winner for the most common form of transportation. There must be a hundred or so bus routes combing all over the city, and most of the students are pretty adept at figuring which one will take them where.

When we got the new place, one of the first things we did was trek to the nearest bus stop in each direction and figure out which buses stop there. Each sign also has a list of all the stops that route makes, so we could take note of which university should use which route to come to our meeting. Useful information for us to send out with our weekly reminder text messages and emails. Still some confusion over last week’s address, though. Students getting off at the bus stop didn’t know which way to walk. Considering it’s rare that someone comes for the first time without someone that’s been before, I think we’re pretty safe now.

Surprising to me, though, is how many students choose to walk. Two of our three main schools are 15 and 20 minutes away walking. Apparently the bus isn’t much faster. And students here, with a few exceptions, have much more time than money. Anyway, these have all proved to be important considerations for us. How comparatively far away is our location? Everyone has a comfortable traveling difference. We know students who live an hour and a half away by bus, but they never come home. And a good number of our students were traveling about an hour to come to our house every week. But they were naturally relieved to find out we were moving closer. Thirty minutes seems within “comfortable” traveling distance here, whether it’s by walking or by bus. What form of transportation will they take to come? What time does this transportation operate? The buses here stop running around 9 pm each night. So that creates a natural 8:45 mass exodus. So far, that’s been a good thing. Usually if they stay too late, a bunch of students will split the cost of a taxi together. Each culture creates its own unique radius around your location.

So, in a city of millions, it’s not only numerically a challenge to plan church expansion, it’s geographically inconvenient as well. Usually in a large city environment, there’s more people inside the radius than you could ever dream of fitting in your space, especially when it’s a house church and you can fit maybe fifty at a time in there. We picked our location because it’s between two major universities, but in the space between them, there’s easily a few hundred thousand inhabitants. Most American cities that size have dozens upon dozens of churches. How many does this area need?

So how big should our radius be? I think it shrinks over time, inversely related to the number of people who attend. There’s a theory! Radius = 1/Attendance. The more people we reach, the more geographically precise of a target we can set for a certain Bible study. Hopefully and prayerfully someday, we can start some more small studies in some of the fringes of our current radius.

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