It can be widely agreed upon that each individual or community has needs. Each community lacks something. Whether it’s a local park for children to play in, better roads, or safety, it is not difficult for us to identify what is not right about a community. I was privileged to be introduced to Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) a couple of weeks ago in a training led by Terri Larson and Susan Sngiem. It was a great time of learning, fellowship, and listening to stories of the journeys God had brought each individual that was there. The message was simple, yet a complete shift of thinking. Instead of starting from a needs perspective, the goal was to start from what the community already had or was good at. This shift thus allows each person in the community to directly participate in their community in a way that promotes empowerment and a sense of ownership. As I carefully tilted my ears towards Terri and Susan as they spoke, there was only one thing I could think of. “But what about the needs!”
This phrase stuck with me the next couple of hours after the training. I knew there was nothing really wrong about focusing on the needs, but something led me to believe it wasn’t the best way. How do we really know what we need anyway? Perhaps an analogy to prayer can help us unpack this further. When I usually pray about a petition or request to God, I start with my needs. I ask God for things to help me with ministry, school, and finding parking (which God has answered many times by the way!). The ABCD training really challenged my way of thinking. Perhaps ABCD is so compelling because it teaches us to acknowledge what God has already blessed us or the community with. It tells us that God has already given so much and that there is “hidden treasure” waiting to be discovered by those who are willing to search. Having such a perspective may also allow us to realize that our preconceived needs were never really needs in the first place.
The potential for ABCD is tremendous. It provides an avenue for grant money to be used more effectively and directs us to see the good in our communities, to see God in our communities. I was truly blessed by the ABCD trainings. It has changed the way I think about what it means to be lacking and to search for God’s Kingdom wherever I go. If you ever feel like you can’t see the Kingdom of God in your community, you may only have to search next door to find it. Blessings.