What does McDonald’s corporate headquarters moving have to do with children’s ministry? Phil Vischer will explain and challenge your church.
A Clown on the Move
So…Ronald McDonald is moving. Not the clown himself, since he’s (spoiler alert!) fictitious. The company. McDonald’s. After 40 years ensconced in a leafy, idyllic campus in leafy, idyllic Oak Brook, Illinois, where new managers stroll down McDonald’s Lane to classes at Hamburger University while staying at the “McLodge,” the entire company is packing up and moving.
“Where to, Phil?? Somewhere even leafier and idyllic-er??”
Nope. Quite the contrary, in fact. The McDonald’s Corporation will soon be relocating to a brand-new headquarters in downtown Chicago, in an area more “hip and edgy” than “leafy and idyllic.”
You’re probably asking two questions right now: First, “Why would McDonald’s do that?” And second, “Why are we discussing a corporate relocation when we’re supposed to be discussing children’s ministry?”
Both are good questions. I’ll answer the first, first. And the second…after that.
Like many large corporations, McDonald’s is competing for the best and brightest business and tech workers as they graduate from college. And something has become clear in the last 10 to 15 years. Young, ambitious college graduates don’t want to live in the suburbs anymore. They don’t want to work in the suburbs. They don’t even want to visit the suburbs. So poor old Ronald McDonald must pack up his 17 pairs of giant red shoes and leave McDonald’s Lane to pursue “hip” and “edgy” in the city.
Impact on Children’s Ministry
Which brings us to our second question: “Phil, what does this have to do with children’s ministry??”
Simple. Sort of. In prior generations, big companies left cities and moved to the suburbs. Why? Nicer houses, better schools, more churches, and parks. In other words, everything you need to raise a family. When childrearing is our top priority, the natural flow has been away from cities, toward suburbs.
So what changed? Young Americans are de-prioritizing family. Birthrates are dropping. Marriage is being delayed. Children delayed even further or eliminated entirely. Good schools aren’t nearly as important to young singles as good gastropubs and microbreweries – art galleries and hot yoga studios. McDonald’s new neighborhood has weak schools and few churches. What it does have, in the words of the Chicago Tribune, is an abundance of “hot restaurants and bars.”
Our culture’s priorities are shifting from family-building to pure, unadulterated consumption. We post pictures of the food we’re about to eat and the craft beer we’re about to imbibe. TV commercials make me feel like a loser if I haven’t backpacked Patagonia or run with the bulls in Pamplona. We consume experiences like so many small-plate appetizers and post the results on Facebook.
A Challenge to the Church
So what of the church? How do we respond? First, we need to follow Ronald back to the cities. Willow Creek Church and others now have thriving sites in the heart of Chicago, with children’s ministry for those brave enough to raise kids there. And back in the suburbs and small towns, we need to recognize how values have changed, and how shallow these new values can feel. When you’ve selfied your 35th small-plate appetizer, you start to wonder whether maybe life should be about a little more than consuming. And that’s where a 2000-year- old message about a God who gave for us so we can give for others—kids included—can hit modern ears in a whole new way.
Phil Vischer created VeggieTales to teach Christian values to kids in 1990 when he was 24, and he sold more than 50 million videos. Today, Vischer pursues innovative ways to integrate faith and storytelling through series such as Buck Denver Asks… What’s in the Bible? and the all-new Galaxy Buck (philvischer.com).
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