Part 3: The Value of the Neighborhood Church

We have a lot of Churches in Dallas. A Google Maps search for “Church” (below) shows that we have a lot of Churches in Dallas.


The screen shot above shows the number of Churches in the city is almost comical. Still, just by sheer population numbers in Dallas County the number of churches shouldn’t be that surprising. If just 5% of Dallas County residents wake up on Sunday morning to go to church, and if we believe the average church on Sunday morning to have about 100 people, then we would easily expect over 1200 churches in Dallas County. That would make churches one of the biggest institutions in the City.

But what value is it?

Churches (at least in principle) offer a unique niche in a community. Churches really serve as the only institution where everyone is welcome. A random person off the street isn’t allowed to just walk into an elementary school, for example. A person really shouldn’t go and spend time at a hospital unless they have a reason to be there. Churches, on the other hand, offer a unique place where everyone is welcome to come and spend time with others in their communities. At my Church, I greet investment bankers and ex-drug addicts. Teachers and Drop-outs. Elderly women fawn over my 2 year old son. Church is a broad mix. At Church I am connected to many people from all walks of life that there is simply no other way I would come in contact with. Religion is really the only institution that truly promotes broad communities. That’s the primary value and purpose of Church. If not for Church, how many elderly women would know who I was? How would my son learn to interact with old men? How many teenage boys would I play softball with? Probably not very many.

That’s why Churches are vital to strong communities. They bring us together in ways that no other institutions can. I have heard the argument that “The Cowboys are my Church”. After throwing up a little in my mouth, my response to that is: “What will the Cowboys do for you when you lose your job? Will they still let you in to see the game?” Probably not. Churches are there in the communities when you need them and they are there in the communities needing you.

This piece, I believe, is ultimately the missing key for why suburban “walkable” developments feel fake. Legacy Town Center in Plano is really a neat development in a lot of ways. But it will always feel contrived to me. It’s a great place to “Live Work and Play” -so long as your credit card is accepted. A Google Maps search for “Church” around the Legacy area looks pretty different than the previous one.


Only three results are within miles of the development -and two of them aren’t actually churches. Legacy is a development that has fabulous commercial success, and horrendously fails at community building. The problem is that once a member of the community can’t pay to play, the community rejects the person. That’s not community at all. (Update: I was just informed that there is a church – City Church– that meets on Sunday mornings at the Angelika Film Center.  It is within walking distance of residents in Legacy Town Center. Glad to hear.)

Here is my critique:

  • If grandma has to drive several miles to go to church on Sunday morning, you failed at city building.
  • If a person in pain has to do a Google Maps search to find a minister to talk to them, you failed at city building.
  • If you don’t include space for the pieces of communities that bring people from different walks of life together, you failed at city building.

I hope you are starting to get the picture. It would be a cynical euphemism to say that Christians have had a checkered history. But at it’s best, if Christians set themselves to work to make it serve the communal value was design to serve, then the Church and other religious organizations become an invaluable asset and serves a valuable function to the City and Community that shouldn’t be disregarded nor ignored when developers and planners are laying out their developments and cities.


  • Matt Vorwald

    Is it too much to ask for a professional writer to know the difference between “principle” and “principal?” Or at least have an editor that does?

    • Ken Duble

      He doesn’t identify himself as a professional writer. He says he’s an engineer.

  • aam

    How could D Magazine allow this to be published with little to no proofreading.

    Somebody may “loose”their job…

    • Dallas May

      I’ve always had trouble with basic grammar. Mostly because I don’t care and think it’s mostly arbitrary rules. And it was provided for free. So no risk of losing my job.

      What did you think of the point of the essay.

  • Anya

    I disgaree with this. Churches, by their very nature, are exclusive to the believers. You can’t establish yourself in the community if you don’t believe or do believe but subscribe to a lifestyle that the church in your neighborhood finds immoral. And often times, when churches do community outreach programs, it comes at a price and that price is proselytizing.

  • Scot Johnson

    This is an interesting take on developments, and may have some merit. I would think that an area with a true mix of spaces would naturally develop those cheaper, hard to rent spaces that would be in the right niche for religious uses. Lots of possibilities for sharing space too.

    I will admit that upon reading the headline, I thought someone had finally done the analysis of how much property tax is forgone by having churches on so many high-end real estate parcels, both urban and suburban.

  • Mark Draz

    “Churches really serve as the only institution where everyone is welcome.”

    Don’t forget libraries!