To live in a consumer society means that we live in a society that is constantly seducing us to remember what we do not have. We need, we don’t have, if only we could get, wouldn’t it be great to have, I could do this if only I had……these are all familiar chorus lines to that song you can’t get out of your head called, consumerism.
There is much that could be written about the pervasive spirituality of consumerism in our day, but for a brief moment I’d like to focus attention on how the posture of “need” influences neighborhoods and churches.
This past Monday evening I had the joy of leading a handful of neighborhood leaders in beginning to realign and reimagine the Cascade People’s Center, my neighborhood community center that is going through significant challenges amidst a rapidly changing neighborhood. We increasingly understand together that the posture that we collectively take when undergoing change is usually just as important as whatever strategic initiatives that require implementation. In other words, how you get somewhere is just as important as where you hope to go.
Due to some crushing financial realities, as well as major organizational changes, the People’s Center has found itself focusing on neighborhood and organizational “needs” instead of assets. It is very easy to be overwhelmed with the crushing sense of need. We need more money, we need more staff, we need more volunteers, it isn’t so different than most church communities is it? However, when we allow needs to be the driving force for change, consumerism oddly wins the day. Here is a diagram I’m borrowing from a fabulous book on community development.
Two Paths ——– Two Solutions Needs (what is not there) creates services to meet those needs which then creates “consumers” which results in the mantra that programs are the answer.
Assets (what is there) creates connections and contributions which then creates “citizens” which results in the mantra people are the answer.
I believe this model is just as useful to neighborhoods and cities, as it is to churches and non-profit agencies. If you begin with what you have and work from there, the end result is almost completely different than beginning from a place of need. Think of the next major challenge or initiative you are facing. You already have everything you need to begin. Start with what you have and work from there.