As many as 23 million Americans say they intend to relocate to a different city or region, now that they can work at home. The survey taken at the height of the pandemic period showed many favored communities with a cheaper cost of living. And 38% of employers are open to it. That could be good news for small towns and midsize cities. And it could benefit churches.
“This is an early indicator of the much larger impacts that remote work could have in increasing efficiency and spreading opportunity,” said economist Adam Ozimek of Upword, a freelancing platform.
About 20% of those planning to move live in a major city. More than half plan to move two hours away or even further. United Van Lines reports a 32% increase in interest in moving compared to a year ago. Customers said the pandemic made them want to be closer to extended family and friends.
Much of Illinois is within two-hours driving distance from Chicago and St. Louis. That may mean “exurbs” will see noticeable growth. These districts outside a city tend to be situated in more rural areas, near farmland, or even the beach.
Impact on local churches
Look for newcomers. Use a service that provides addresses for new residents. Both Lifeway and Outreach.com offer new resident lists. The “windshield survey” works too. Ask church members to note moving trucks and stacks of U-Haul boxes.
Rev up the Welcome Wagon. Newbies want to know about their new home. Supply area food specialties, restaurant coupons, info on local attractions, and church info.
Focus on community. Settling into a new group isn’t always easy. The “home folks” may need help making new people feel welcome. Encourage overt invitations to worship, classes, and Sunday lunch. Make it easy to join in.
Specialize in remote workers’ needs. Single adults who returned when their offices reopened said they missed their work friends, because many had no one at home. As families relocate, they will need new relationships too. And sometimes a quiet place to get away to “work.”