Our time in Loudoun county (the richest and one of the fastest growing counties in the US) has taught us how to pinch pennies, live in the fast lane, be immersed into a diverse culture, and welcome with open arms people that are new to the area and looking for friendship. Our heart is to find an area where a lot of these experiences transfer. As we began to pray and do our research, we created a “checklist” of characteristics we want to look for.
- Is it lacking thriving/life-giving/contemporary churches?
- Is it a family friendly area?
- Is the area growing? Up and coming communities?
- Is it a youthful area?
- Lower cost of living?
- Are there many unchurched people?
- Is there at least 1 major city close by?
- Is there a lot of diversity?
- Does it feel good? Can we visualize living there? Do we have peace?
As we began our research we were led to the Raleigh, NC area. It has been a booming area over the last decade. Many church planters have put down their roots there and churches have been thriving. You may be wondering why we would even entertain the idea of going there if so many churches are there already. The current population is over a million. That requires a lot of thriving churches. We see God doing great things in that area.
During our first visit we drove through downtown Raleigh and almost all the surrounding towns. After meeting with a real estate agent we were informed that a small town to the east of Raleigh, called Knightdale, was the last major town that had land left to develop. It’s still up and coming so you can get the biggest bang for your buck there.
As we did further research, we found that Knightdale is the youngest town in Wake County with an average age just under 31. The ethnic and social make-up is very diverse. It’s only 10 mins from Raleigh (20 mins to downtown Raleigh). There is an outer beltway that makes a half circle that currently ends in Knightdale. There are plans that are currently underway to bring the beltway full circle. This means greater accessibility to all surrounding Raleigh Areas from Knightdale.
After meeting with the town planner, we learned that Knightdale is actively constructing an incredible park with a huge playground area, dog parks, several sport fields, a concert pavilion and a YMCA. In 2015 there are plans to build a community with 900 homes (this is in addition to all the numerous new neighborhoods that are currently being constructed). We were also told that they have future plans to build a Christian School in Knightdale.
Aside from doing a tremendous amount of research on the area and studying a gigantic Knightdale map, we also drove through almost every part of the entire town (several places multiple times). We don’t even live there and yet we find ourselves already knowing our way around.
We spoke with people every chance we could (our waitress, barista, people at the rec center, town hall employees, a chamber of commerce employee, local residents etc.) The most encouraging part was that the Lord seemed to grant us favor in each conversation with them. A woman from the chamber of commerce has already reached out via email to offer help with moving, watching our kids, or simply going to their house for a meal, should we decide to plant our roots there. (Gotta love that Southern Hospitality. Although, she’s not even southern. She and her family moved to Knightdale 3 years ago from Ohio.)
We knew at this point that we loved so many things about Knightdale. Our final item to “check off the list” was to find out about pre-existing churches and determine whether or not Knightdale needed another church. We are well aware of the Baptist movement in the south. You can find a Baptist church on every corner. Our research showed us that there are several traditional churches in Knightdale and we could only find one contemporary/lively non-denominational church.
We tried reaching out to this church, but didn’t receive any communication back so before we left for our trip back home, we decided to walk into their new location and see if we could find someone to talk to. The youth/missions pastor was in his office and took some time to talk with us and share their church history, as well as some of their current and future plans. We admire what they are doing and see how our style and vision aligns very closely with theirs. As Pete said after our meeting, “the list of what makes us different will be much shorter than the list of how we are similar.” Their youth pastor was able to confirm that they are in fact the only nondenominational contemporary church in Knightdale.
After that informative meeting and before heading home, we pulled off into a Walgreens parking lot and sat for quite some time, talking and praying. It was decision time and we both knew it.
Our conversations centered on our first and second visits to Knightdale. We both thoroughly enjoyed our interactions with people from the area, we loved the growth Knightdale was experiencing and we could see ourselves living and ministering here. Yet we still had a hold up.
We realized our hesitation was not in making a decision for/against Knightdale but for this major life-changing decision overall. If we said “no” to Knightdale, we would still be faced with the same major decision at another location. Think about it: we are essentially impacting our family tree for generations to come. We’re finding a place where our children will grow up, where we’ll form new friendships and relationships, where we’ll settle and grow and live life.
And when it came down to it, we loved Knightdale. It was a place we could see ourselves living, it is diverse, young, kid-friendly, growing, has a low cost of living and the list could go on. When we talked this out, we both were in agreement – God has given us a heart for this area and for the people of Knightdale.
Although this decision feels a little more analytical than spiritual, it comes as no surprise to God! He has given us the ability to engage our minds and to weigh this decision carefully. He gave us each other – our spouses are the best people to provide feedback, encouragement and challenge.
Furthermore, I (Pete) did feel as if God spoke to me on this trip. Early in the trip I saw Karen get excited about different aspects of the location. Truth be told, I was also excited, but I felt the need to be the “voice of reason” and I would, at times, serve as a wet blanket on her fire so to speak. Shortly after we arrived in Knightdale for our most recent visit (April 15, 2014) I felt like God spoke to me about this. I felt like he said, “Son, just let her fall in love with Knightdale. It’s okay.”
In objection, I thought, “but what if we don’t ultimately end up here?” I suppose I was still hanging on to this idea of being the voice of reason. Almost immediately I felt God saying, “it’s okay. I will deal with that. Just let her fall in love with Knightdale.”
This, in correlation with the heart God gave us for this area and for the people living here, was how we came to realize that God is drawing us to Knightdale.