Rest assured. My wife and I love Illinois. It is an honor to live here and a privilege to serve the great people here. This is precisely why I ask the question above.
Those who live here will admit, Illinois is experiencing some real challenges. Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the news about the reducing population here. At the bottom of this article are some links that discuss the problem and they are the resources for data I used.
A few details shared are:
Illinois’ population has fallen for the fifth straight year. The state lost an estimated 45,100 people in 2018. In 2017, around 33,700 people left. That means more than 11,000 more people left the state in 2018 than in 2017.
From July 2017 to July 2018, more than 114,000 Illinoisans left the state, a total population decline of more than 45,000 people.
The population loss is intensifying.
Illinois is the only state in the Midwest that saw a population loss. More than 43,000 people moved to Minnesota this year and more than 30,000 moved to Indiana.
The most important numbers in the new federal statistics involve domestic migration — the number of people leaving Illinois for other states, such as Texas, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Since Illinois’ population decline began in 2014, the state has shrunk by more than 157,000 people. That’s equivalent to losing the entire city of Joliet, Naperville or Rockford.
The primary driver of Illinois’ outmigration crisis is prime working-age residents (ages 25-54) seeking opportunity.
The most important factor in Illinois’ migration problem is the labor market, which has been crushed by the state’s unfriendly tax policy and business climate.
A Southern Illinois University at Carbondale poll from 2015 showed that half of the Illinois residents polled would leave the state if they could.
The result of all of this data and information is troubling for those of us who love the Land of Lincoln. We are concerned about the future. We’re not sure what the future holds. And we regularly encounter people who are somewhat hopeless about any chance to turn the state around.
I realize, this is all fairly negative. But we believe in transparency: it is what it is. But hang in there; we’re about to turn a corner.
We believe that we are right where God wants us, and that changes everything!
What do leaders do when times get tough? They fight for what is right. When we discuss our issues, we’re not whining, where strategizing. Max DePree says that, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” Illinoisans are not stupid – we know full well what is happening.
But there are times that the answers may not be as easy to identify as are the problems.
Of course, we need tax reform. Businesses need a break in order to compete. We must clean up our corrupt politics. We have to change the narrative about Illinois. We’ve heard enough of the complaints. We’re committed to develop solutions!
We’re developing a strategy to rescue Illinois. Sounds grandiose, doesn’t it? Too ambitious? Naïve?
Here’s the thing: we are convinced that our presence here is God’s strategy. He has a solid record of positioning people where they are needed. The good folks in our faith family are not accidents. They aren’t here by chance. God placed them as missionaries to a culture that is in great need of their ministry. A good many of them love their state deeply and wouldn’t leave (regardless of what the SIUC survey reveals).
If God put us here, He has some expectations of us. His idea is not for us to work toward tax reform or to clean up politics. His idea is for us to be representatives of His Kingdom in a place that really needs it. God sends us where we are needed most. If our communities were perfect, we wouldn’t be needed. If Christians abandon the tough places, hope will be lost.
We consider Illinois to be our Mission Field.
As such, our plans center around a few key ideas:
- Act redemptively. Rather than moan and groan, we will talk answers. We have identified the reality, now we plan to change the reality. We won’t run away from the problem, we will run toward it.
- Create positivity. Life is more than luxuries and comfort. Our intention is to make life better for people. Where there is a need, God will enable us to meet it. The culture and atmosphere will change.
- Invest in the future. This investment is not necessarily in the industries of the state; this investment is in our most valuable resource – young people.
- Intentional inclusion. Our leaders will commit to purposefully and strategically include not-so-likely leaders in our leadership processes. Those who have been marginalized or put on a shelf for a later date will be encouraged, even compelled to lead.
- Create an atmosphere of hope. Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said, “Hope is a passion for the possible.” We will be authentically passionate about the good things that are possible for Illinois and its people.
- We are recruiting difference makers. While some want to leave, others want to be problem solvers. While most people run out of a burning building, there are always heroes who run in. Illinois is not burning, but it’s in trouble. It will take some very courageous and passionate people to rush in. I’ve signed up and believe many more are prepared to do so.
I’m extending an invitation. If you are currently living in Illinois, let’s join forces to make this state as awesome as possible. If you used to live here but left, the door swings both ways. Consider coming home to help in the renovation. If you’ve never been here, if you drove through one time, if you know a lot or very little about this great state, we invite you to be a part of something remarkable.
Anybody can jump on a winning bandwagon. It’s easy to ride the coattails of others to easy street. It doesn’t take character to inherit the fruit of others’ labor. But only a chosen few experience the thrill of helping to redeem and rebuild a really struggling state that has endless potential.
We have a team of gifted and impassioned women and men, young and old that is committed to do whatever it takes to save and redeem our state. They know that this is their mission field. They don’t expect it to be easy and they know it won’t be quick. They realize that they are desperately needed. They have zero intensions of quitting. You can join us.
What are we going to do about Illinois? We’re going to turn it around! Who is with us?