“After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you.” Luke 10:1-6
This post is the third in a series of posts defining the steps to healthy asset based community development efforts. In my prior posts, I shared that the first step is to define a geographic area and that the second step involves some often difficult paradigm shifts. In this post we will be discussing the most critical element in healthy ABCD work – finding the “persons of peace.”
What is a Person of Peace? For our purposes, a person of peace is someone who lives in the neighborhood and who cares enough about their neighborhood to join with others in making it a better place to live. In ABCD language, they are “assets.”
How do you find the persons of peace? Always start with existing relationships. Who in your church or in your extended network lives in the neighborhood God is calling you to invest in? What other relationships does your church already have in the neighborhood?
How do you know if someone is a person of peace? Not every person you meet in a neighborhood is interested in joining in a community development effort. We use a simple 5 question survey to help us discern a person’s openness to being a part of a community building effort. This survey is one of the many tools that we have learned from Communities First Association and it is used by ABCD practitioners across the country.
1. How long have you lived in the neighborhood? (This tells you how vested the person is and their level of knowledge about the neighborhood.)
2. What do you like best about the neighborhood? (This will help you discern their overall opinion of the neighborhood and what they value as well as help you identify community strengths.)
3. If you could change anything about your neighborhood, what would you change? (This will help you discern what they care about.)
4. If others care about the same things you care about, can we count on you to join in? (This will help you discern their willingness to get involved.)
5. Who else do you know who cares about what you care about? (This will help you identify other potential persons of peace.)
This simple tool is an easy way to determine which of the residents you have a relationship with would be a person of peace for your efforts. It also helps you determine what people see as strengths in the neighborhood and what they are concerned about.
This process of identifying neighbors who care, neighborhood strengths and community concerns is often called “asset mapping” in ABCD circles.
What is the difference between “needs” surveys and “asset mapping?” The biggest mistake I see people make is to turn the asset mapping process into a “needs” survey. Instead of asking the five questions above, they will go to the neighborhood and say “What do you need?”, “What would you like us to do for the neighborhood?” This kind of needs oriented “us” doing “for” you questioning will undermine the community development effort entirely. Community development is all about empowerment of the neighbors and you must be very careful not to allow it to become just another way your congregation serves. Community development is about development not service and this is a hugely important shift. See post #2, 10 Paradigm Shifts, in this series for further clarification including the comment section.
What do I do when I identify a person of peace? This is the fun part, you listen to them! Community development is about empowerment and the best way to empower neighborhood residents is to listen deeply to the things they care about. Why do they care about these things? How has their passion for a particular issue been shaped through the years? What gifts, talents and abilities do they have? What experiences have formed them and the neighborhood? They are your teachers and you are the student. Admit to yourself and to them that you are clueless. Invite them to teach you about the neighborhood. They are the best source you will ever find for understanding a neighborhood’s culture, story and strengths.
After you identify several persons of peace, what do you do next? The key to community development is gathering neighbors together around things they care about. Once you have identified six to ten neighbors who care about the same thing, the next step is to host community conversations about the issue they are concerned about. We will discuss different methodologies for hosting community conversations in our next post in this series.