Connector’s Table by John McKnight

Decide to Create a Connector’s Table. Once the gifts, strangers, associations and institutions have been identified, to become useful they must be connected.  People in the neighborhood must do the connecting.  Some neighbors can do this individually.  Other neighbors may be especially experienced or talented “connectors.” Linking these connectors creates a powerful force for community building.

Find local connectors in the neighborhood. Natural connectors are usually:

-gift minded, seeing the full-half of neighbors -well connected themselves, especially with neighbors and local associations -trusted because of their consistent helpfulness

As you have “head, heart, hand and teachables” discussions with neighbors, ask each who the local connectors are.  Then ask them if they are a connector.  Would they be willing to work on connecting local people?  Would they be willing to introduce you to the connectors they know?

When you find connectors, ask them who they think are connectors (it takes one to know one.) Will they help invite the connector they know to join the neighborhood effort?

Note:  A connector is different from a leader. A leader is speaking at the front of the room. A connector is in the middle of the room linking people.

Our Questions to You: How did you find connectors? Were they willing to join a Connectors’ Table?

What to do with the Connector’s Table: Bringing connectors together as a group creates a powerful means to build the local community.The functions of the Table can include:

-sharing information each has about gifts, strangers, associations and institutions -thinking up where the gifts of each neighbor and stranger can be connected -sharing the responsibility to make the connections -sharing ideas about connections involving associations and institutions, as well  as making these connections or recruiting others to create the linkage.

A Connectors’ Table might have three members or ten, or more.  The Table is always open to everyone in the neighborhood.  Each neighbor should constantly be invited to sit at the table or share in its work.

Our Questions to You: How did you initiate a local Table? What functions has the Table performed?

Question: What are some ways that bring all the neighbors together? Thoughts: An important part of neighborhood building is the experience of all the neighbors coming together and enjoying their creativity and productive work.  Here are several ways all the local neighbors have come together:

Celebrations: -Recognizing children and their accomplishments -Celebrating returning veterans -Honoring the neighbors unsung heroes -Listening to the newly created neighborhood band

Life Events: -Celebrating births, marriages and celebrations. -Memorializing the life of a good neighbor who has passed on

Common interests: Neighbors find common cause in working together on health, safety, children, the local economy, the land and food. These are categories that pull people together to share their gifts.

Sharing neighborhood information: Neighborhoods thrive on information that joins people together.

Create a neighborhood web site: The site can inform neighbors about upcoming events, personal landmarks or family hardships.  It can provide opportunities to share and swap from children’s clothes, to skills to be shared or subjects to be taught.

Biographies: Create a profile of every person in the neighborhood.  Join the profiles in a book to be given to every household and put the information on the neighborhood web site.

Neighborhood history: Create a history of the neighborhood. Gather information from the oldest residents. Involve the local librarian in helping with the work.

Newcomers: Visit the new residents and give them the book of biographies and neighborhood history. Ask them for their own biography and put it on a neighborhood website to introduce them to their neighbors.

Our question to you: What has brought all the people in your neighborhood together? What appears on your web site? What information do people find most useful?

Posted with permission.  See the original post here at Abundant Community.

John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

Keeping a Promise

Sage Hazarika ’14 encourages Lincoln Elementary School students during a special parade.

CFA member Eric Smith’s work with the Promise Neighborhood in Springfield, OH  is highlighted in this article written by Karen Gerboth of Wittenberg University. 

Surrounded by a sea of art-covered walls, fifth-grade students at Springfield’s Lincoln Elementary take a moment to listen to a young man named Sage Hazarika ’14.

A Brooklyn, N.Y.-native and Wittenberg sophomore, Hazarika sits near the center of the classroom in a school that has special meaning for Wittenberg students, for the community it serves and for the families who have entrusted their children to it.

“This is really an important time for you,” Hazarika says. “You are an important part of this school, and all the other grades are looking up to you.”

And in those few words, perhaps even unknown to Hazarika, a bigger vision is revealed as the city of Springfield and the State of Ohio “look up” to Lincoln Elementary as the centerpiece of an innovative initiative defined by one word: promise.

Called the Springfield Promise Neighborhood, the comprehensive, collaborative commitment to ensuring that children succeed academically was inspired by New York-based social activist and educator Geoffrey Canada, who created the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York City.

“The reality is that we would not have accomplished what we’ve been able to achieve without the support of Wittenberg and its students. I deeply appreciate the legion of Wittenberg efforts on behalf of the children and youth in the Promise Neighborhood.”

Eric Smith         Neighborhood Organizer         Springfield Promise Neighborhood

Bob Welker, Wittenberg professor emeritus of education and Hagen Center for Civic & Urban Engagement Fellow, visited HCZ two years ago, after meeting with Canada during a special luncheon in Springfield. Canada has led a coordinated effort with hundreds of individuals to establish “a new method to end the cycle of generational poverty” in Harlem, wherein the entire community works with the child from the “cradle to college.”

Featured on the heart-breaking documentary Waiting for Superman, Canada’s work and those of others, caused a “light-bulb” moment for Welker, who along with colleagues in the Springfield community, saw a need for this type of full-scale transformative educational intervention to help the children most at-risk in Wittenberg’s hometown.

Neighborhood meetings, conversations with the Springfield City Schools Superintendent David Estrop, and discussions with parents, social service agencies, community change agents, foundations and Wittenberg quickly followed, and soon thereafter the vision with the power to change young lives was revealed:

“Children lie at the center of all that we do. We understand that our truest vocation as parents and caretakers, as educators and neighbors is to nurture the growth and development of our children – to help them discover and share their greatness with the world. And so we make this solemn promise: We will all come together as partners and citizens in the unwavering commitment to ensure that all our children succeed and attain their highest potential.”

A Call to Action

With the coordinated effort now underway, Welker officially became the project director shortly after his retirement wherein he worked with Principal Mike Wilson and the Lincoln staff to oversee the school design efforts.

“The local school is one of the most important, and often underutilized, institutions in the lives of our children,” Welker wrote in his project outline. “For this reason, every effort must be made to create and support a thriving school, one that meets the needs of all its students and one that serves the neighborhood by becoming a community center. Effective, restorative schools create environments in which staff, administrators, faculty and students can do their best.”

First-Year Signs of Success                  

  • Developed a neighborhood council and neighborhood work teams as an outcome of a listening campaign.
  • Created an aspirational culture at Lincoln, with one administrator calling the new culture one “in which they write books about.”
  • Established a school design team and work teams focused on conduct, academic climate and school enrichment
  • Saw 28 students participate in the summer school program, 60 students in the summer arts program and 105 in the planting of the Lincoln Garden
  • Created volunteer programs through Wittenberg and new literacy-centered schedule

Just as a thriving school leads to thriving students, so does a thriving neighborhood, which “provides the stability, nurturance and out-of-school opportunities needed for the growth of children and youth,” Welker continued.

“With community organizer Eric Smith, a group of residents and parents formed a Neighborhood Association,” Welker said. “It guides efforts to form a stable, out-of-school environment for community youth.”

Among the many opportunities Welker sees with the Promise Neighborhood are (1) the alliance of internal and external resources to install pride in a community that will actually create a new community, which provides social, cultural and economic opportunities for youth and families, (2) the creation of a model school that will stay open longer each day and each year as it develops effective approaches for working with disadvantaged youth, and (3) the establishment of a culture of achievement where all students are expected to succeed.

“This is an aspirational environment, and in this place, students are expected to ‘Be the Promise’,” Welker says.

Motivated by the promise itself, Wittenberg students quickly joined Welker in the effort, immersing themselves in various projects through the Hagen Center for Civic & Urban Engagement, through their classes, or though community service with each participant actively reflecting the Wittenberg mission “…to lead personal, professional, and civic lives of creativity, service, compassion, and integrity.”

“Being a part of the Springfield Promise Neighborhood during my time at Wittenberg has been the most inspiring experience,” said Kali Lawrence ’12. “It has helped me develop a particular slant as a future music educator in urban schools, along with skills to become a community leader.“

Lawrence, who has been exploring funding opportunities for Promise’s long-term vision as well as arts education opportunities for Lincoln students, has now decided to remain in Springfield after graduation to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the initiative. Fellow graduate Lacey Davidson will do the same.

“This effort [seeks to] revitalize the area and foster a culture of success and care so that the children in this neighborhood may thrive,” Lawrence said. “I am consistently amazed at how the community in the Springfield Promise Neighborhood comes together and how Wittenberg supports this project by the involvement of Witt students, faculty and staff.”

Bracelets and Bonds

Wittenberg’s commitment to the Springfield Promise Neighborhood has since led to a bond, literally and figuratively, with many of the students at Lincoln as an April event affirmed.

On that day, April 20, just days before the state’s required assessment tests for grades 3-8, students at Lincoln viewed a video produced by Clark Goodman ’12, which featured him and fellow Wittenberg students encouraging the Lincoln students to study hard and do their best.

“The goal we were hoping to achieve from this event was to allow for a transformation on both sides,” said Kimberly Lykens ’14, a biology major and education minor who joined the initiative because of her passion and interest in helping educational equality and empowerment.

Wittenberg seniors made PRIDE bracelets for the students at Lincoln Elementary to encourage them in their studies and in life

“We wanted the students of Lincoln to know that Wittenberg students believe they can achieve,” Lawrence said. “But, we also wanted Wittenberg students to realize how much the kids need their support in order to believe in themselves.”

Following the video, which ran in each classroom at the newly renovated school, Hazarika and 20 other Wittenberg students fanned out throughout the school with each one entering a classroom to deliver a special message of support in their own words and something else – a bracelet with a personalized note.

“The bracelets are a reminder to students that someone on the track to success believes they can one day be successful, too,” Lykens said. “I never received a letter of encouragement in elementary school, but writing one made me realize that even a simple statement of motivation means the world to these kids.”

Wittenberg students penned notes – one for each student – and shared the meaning of the bracelet with the students.

“The bead bracelets have the acronym PRIDE on them which stands for Prepared, Respect, Integrity, Determined and Effort,” Lykens said. “This is the motto of Lincoln school.”

And it was that pride that filled the halls as the Lincoln students then paraded through the corridors to cheers from classmates and teachers, and numerous signs of support. One first-grade class proudly held a banner that read: “You can do it kids!”

For Principal Wilson, who works directly with the Springfield Promise Neighborhood team as he oversees the current plans for school improvement under the Ohio Improvement Process, the day was both meaningful and heartwarming.

“The contributions made by Wittenberg students and faculty here at Lincoln are immeasurable,” Wilson said. “Their efforts to expose the students of Lincoln to the college environment has opened the eyes of many of our students. These personal experiences have made these children aware of the realistic opportunity that they too can attend college and earn a degree.

“But the most exciting part of this partnership has been watching the individual relationships between the Lincoln students and the Wittenberg students as they grow and develop into meaningful life experiences for all. I would like to personally thank Wittenberg for all of the time and effort it has put into enhancing the lives of the children that need us the most.”

Reposted from Wittenberg Magazine, Spring 2012.  Click here to see original post.

Written By: Karen Gerboth ’93   Photos By: Erin Pence ’04

The Neighbor Challenge Segue

By V. Reber

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  The last several weeks have been eye-opening as we have intentionally set out to meet and know our neighbors.  Honestly assessing our fears and assumptions has led us to make changes and take chances.  We’ve made that long walk across the street…and survived! But, like the childhood tune “The Song That Never Ends” neither does the challenge of building relationships with our neighbors.  So, what’s next?  Segue, please.

There’s a transition that happens once we know our neighbor’s names, learn more about the things they care about, and change our habits so that we are a visible presence on our street.  We have moved from being strangers to having a connectedness that lends itself to:

Helping:  Retrieve your neighbor’s garbage can from the curb, offer to water plants when someone has surgery or is out-of-town, or lend a hand when you see someone carrying a heavy load.

Sharing:  Lend tools, give away vegetables or flowers from your garden, have a conversation.

Connecting:  Introduce other neighbors to each other and to community resources/information. For example, our neighborhood uses a web platform that allows neighbors to share information.  Recently a neighbor shared that she is starting her own cupcake business, so I “connected” her to the site as a (free) way for her to spread the word. Telling other neighbors about her business, or introducing her to someone else with a similar interest/background is another way I can serve as connector on her behalf.

Hospitality:  Invite a neighbor for dessert, host a cookout, throw a block party.  Think about ways to showcase the gifts of your neighbors whenever possible.

Associations:  Organize a neighborhood group (this can be broader than but include “watch” groups), start a knitting group, running club, or dance class.  (My neighborhood has the last two!), band together around a specific need (tutoring, crossing guards for a local school, alley maintenance).

The Neighbor Challenge doesn’t end here. Our final corporate challenge is this:  to continue and to encourage others to begin.  I’ll be sharing stories periodically as I continue, and I would love to hear and share your stories!  Comment here or e-mail me at [email protected]

V. Reber is a wife, mother, and assistant with CFA who aspires to be a great neighbor.

The Neighbor Challenge  1 – posted 6/27

The Neighbor Challenge 2  – posted 7/6

The Neighbor Challenge 3 – posted 7/11

The Neighbor Challenge 4 – posted 7/18

The Neighbor Challenge 5 – posted 8/1

Evangelism is More Than Words

Image - wordsJuly 2012

By Bob Lupton – FCS Urban Ministries

I had done my best to explain to a church group the difference between serving and partnering. I had described how developing the poor requires an entirely different strategy from traditional service methods that “do for” those in need. I explained that when you do for people what they have the capacity to do for themselves you actually weaken rather than strengthen them. I gave practical examples of how lending and investing, how sharing technological knowledge and connecting isolated people with new markets, enabled whole villages to emerge from poverty. I told them that if we measured actual outcomes rather than merely activities we would have a much better gauge for the effectiveness of our missions.

Then it was Q & A time. “I see what you are saying about developing the poor,” the first pushback came, “but how do you bring the Gospel into this?” I understood the question. It came from the familiar evangelical premise that the most loving thing we can do for the poor (for anyone) is to share the Gospel with them. The soul is eternal while the body is only temporal. Eternal salvation, then, is the primary concern to God. Evangelism, not economic development, should be the primary task of missions. Right?

It was an honest question, one that deserved a reasoned response.

Four decades of living among marginalized people has expanded my early understanding of the Gospel. The Good News, I have come to believe, is about more than individual salvation. It includes personal salvation, to be sure, but it also involves the transformation of fragmented communities, of unjust institutions, of oppressive systems. The Gospel is Good News for the whole of creation. Even the environment. It is about Shalom, well-being, a prevailing peace.

There may be good reason why the Great Commission to “preach the Gospel to every nation” was preceded by the earlier (and much ignored) New Command “to love each other as I have loved you.” This prior command – Christ’s parting words on His last night with His disciples – would be the validating evidence of His divinity and the identifying mark of His followers. Without this visible demonstration of self-sacrificing unity, Christ’s deity as well as the authenticity of those who claim to follow Him would be questionable. This is more than rhetoric. Dis-unity actually eviscerates the power of the message. I see the Gospel undermined by aggressive evangelizers who blitz inner-city neighborhoods, collecting decision cards, never bothering to meet, even acknowledge, the saints who populate these very streets. I see affluent (naïve though very sincere) young people who fly into impoverished lands to “lead the lost to Christ” never imagining that God may be already powerfully at work among His destitute people. I see how denominations set up competing congregations in the same villages that promote member loyalty by devaluing, even “un-christianizing,” other groups of believers. Evangelism that does not flow from the New Command may actually do more to thwart the purposes of the Kingdom than to advance it.

And so, my response to the inquirer? Step one: identify the saints – all the saints, not just those of my political persuasion or theological stripe – and discover how God is at work in their lives. What I will likely discover is that the body of Christ is already embedded within most cultures, badly broken perhaps, but clearly present. Pentecostals judging Baptists, Evangelicals de-christianizing Catholics, believers split along doctrinal and political fault lines. To plant a new church would fragment them all the more. The best Good News for a fractured society is the Great Command (love God and neighbor) championed by serious devotees to the New Command (love each other). The Great Commission (proclamation) is a predictable outcome, a by-product, not an end in itself. Skipping over the two bed-rock Commands on the way to fulfilling the Great Commission is like erecting houses without foundations.

Thus, Christian community development work begins where people are, with their felt needs, the issues of greatest concern to the whole village – like clean drinking water, for example. A well may be a real need but it could be quite expensive and very labor intensive. It would involve more than merely drilling a hole in the ground. An adequate aqueduct system to serve 250 homes scattered across many acres would require a pumping station, a water tower, thousands of meters of pipe. The community must decide if this indeed is their top priority. If it is, community development wisdom requires that local residents be first investors with cash, not just labor. That means fundraisers and family contributions. A water commission must be formed to manage both water flow and cash flow. A project management team must be assembled. There are trenches to dig, pipes to lay, materials to be stored and guarded, food to prepare. It is a project that requires the participation of every household who wishes to have fresh water flowing to their home. And, of course, nearly everyone does. In the process neighbors join hands across barriers that have divided them, perhaps for generations. Labels are set aside as needed talents are identified and put to use. Devout church-goers and neighbors with no expressed faith sweat together in the sweltering sun and take breaks together under the shade of mango trees. It is an important community development project that greatly improves the quality of life of the village, and increases the skills and leadership capacities of villagers. But it is more. It is a unifying effort that brings estranged believers into relationship with each other.

It happened just this way in rural Nicaragua. When villagers observed their neighbor Anita, a Catholic and outspoken member of the Sandinista socialist party, working closely with Don Blas, an elder Baptist pastor and loyal member of the conservative party, eyebrows raised. Two saints, staunch political adversaries, separated by theologies that view the other as heretics, teamed up to bring water to their village – it was enough to stir curiosity in the conversations of their community. But when neighbors saw their relationship deepen and smiles and hugs of genuine affection exchange between the two, hearts were melted. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples…” When the followers of Jesus set aside differences, even deeply held ones, to demonstrate care for their neighbors (like providing water), such behaviors become visible. “Father, make them one so that the world will know that you sent me…” When the followers of Jesus yield not only personal preferences but suspend deeply held convictions in deference to one another, a witness of powerful impact is unleashed.

And so to my questioner who asks “How do you bring the Gospel into this work?” I answer: begin with the fundamentals. The great command and the new command will take you where you need to go. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel and use words when necessary.”

This article was re-published from and written by founder and CEO Bob Lupton of Atlanta, Georgia. Bob is a Christian community developer, an entrepreneur who brings together communities of resource with communities of need. Through FCS Urban Ministries – a non-profit organization which he founded – he has developed two mixed income subdivisions, organized a multi-racial congregation, started a number of businesses, created housing for hundreds of families and initiated a wide range of human services in his community. He is the author of the books Theirs in the Kingdom, Return Flight, Renewing the City, Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life and the widely circulated “Urban Perspectives”, monthly reflections on the Gospel and the poor. Bob has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Georgia. He serves as speaker, strategist, and inspirer with those throughout the nation who seek to establish God’s Shalom in the city.

Friday Food For Thought: Associations

Associations by John McKnight

Question: Why do associations matter?
Thoughts:  Many neighbors are connected to interesting and productive groups clubs and associations. Many neighbors may be interested in connecting their interests or gifts to these groups. Many of these groups may join the neighbors in undertaking a community project.

Question: What are the types of associations and what do you do with this information?
Thoughts: Here are some ways of thinking about this:

Identify associations of local residents.
Ask people about the groups they belong to.

Our question to you: What types of associations did you find?

Connect the gifts of individuals to associations.
You could connect a gardener to the garden club, someone to a mother’s group.

Our question to you: What connections did you make?

Create new neighborhood associations.
Connect neighborhood musicians and form a band, organize community energy savers from among those concerned about the environment.

Our question to you: What new groups did you create?

Connect existing associations. You can connect a garden club to the local environmental organization or a seniors organization to a youth group.

Our question to you: What associations did you connect?

Question: What can we do with our local institutions?
Thoughts: We can divide our effort into several categories:

Local Institutions.
Many neighbors have connections with local institutions such as businesses, health and human service agencies, police and fire departments, schools, libraries, hospitals, parks, etc. Their connections can often lead local institutions to be helpful to people in the neighborhood and neighborhood people can be helpful to the institutions.

Neighbors’ relationships with local institutions.
Where does each neighbor work?  Is the workplace local?  Does the neighbor own the business? Which other local institutions is the neighbor connected to?

The information about the neighbors’ institutional connections can create two kinds of productive new neighborhood relationships:

-What are the job openings the neighbors know about?
-Are there internship possibilities for neighborhood young people in the institution where neighbors work?

This can be given to all the neighbors through the neighborhood web site, newsletter or the Connectors Table.

-What information did you find about jobs and internships?
-How did you communicate the information to the neighbors?
-What connections were made between neighbors and institutions?

A neighborhood project with local institutions.
All the neighborhood businesses, not for profit agencies and government organizations have potential for productive connections. Neighbors can identify all the local institutions and visit them to find out:

-What kinds of jobs do the institutions have and how can the neighborhood be informed of openings?
-Would the institutions be willing to provide internships for local young people?
-How could neighbors help the local businesses find more customers and  become more profitable?
-How could the neighbors support the work of the local agencies and government organizations?

This project provides great opportunities for mutually beneficial connections between neighbors and local institutions.

Question: How do Connectors sustain themselves and keep learning about this function?
Thoughts: Start by convening a Connector’s Table.

Posted with permission.  See the original post here at Abundant Community.

John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

Friday Food For Thought: Hospitality

Hospitality by John McKnight

Question: Why is so important?
Thoughts: One key to a strong and satisfying community is the spirit of welcome and hospitality. This spirit powers community by recognizing we need the gifts of everyone, and everyone needs to give their gifts. This calls for a special effort to meet your neighbors who have been marginal or isolated-the strangers in our midst.

Question: How do we begin?
Thoughts: It begins with some very basic questions.

  1. Who are the strangers in the neighborhood. Newcomers, loners, even adversaries.
  2. How do we identify their gifts as the key to connection and hospitality.
  3. How might strangers be connected. Guided by knowing what their gifts are, we can ask what neighbors or associations would value these gifts. How might these people become useful? How do we make the connection?

Our Questions to You:
What strangers have you identified?
What gifts do they have?
How have you connected them to other neighbors?

Posted with permission.  See the original post here.

John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

The Neighbor Challenge: Week 3

By V. Reber

After last week’s challenge to meet a neighbor, I’ve been a little nervous.  I was out-of-town all weekend, and that left only a few short days before my deadline.  What if I didn’t meet someone?  So, I’ve been waiting and watching expectantly.  I peeked out the front window at every pass to no avail.  Then, this morning, as I was getting ready to leave I spotted someone.

Now came the moment I had been waiting for, or maybe not.  After all, it was clearly not a good time.  The lady I was planning to meet (unbeknownst to her) was obviously in a hurry.  She was trying to round-up her kids to leave, and was giving orders that were being largely ignored.  I panicked momentarily….  I’m a mom.  I’ve had those moments.  Did I really want to walk in on that with a “Hi, I’m your new neighbor.”  Hmmmm….AND my hands were full.  I needed to get to the grocery store.

It was in that moment of indecision that I realized that if I waited for a “good time” I might never meet my neighbors.  So, I walked into the fray, and it was delightful.  The woman said she was glad that I had stopped her, and our chat (which lasted less than three minutes) created an open door to more conversations in the future.

There are many obstacles to meeting neighbors.  Some are harder to navigate than others, but the fact is they are obstacles not barriers.  Busyness, not wanting to intrude, fear of looking and feeling silly, language…all of these are things that may make getting to know our neighbors more difficult, but what’s the flip side?  What are we missing out on if we choose to stay isolated?  What is our neighborhood missing out on if we aren’t using our gifts to make it a better place?

Week #3

Question: What are you good at?  What are you passionate about?


1.  Write down three things that you know about.

2.Write down three things that you can do with your hands.

3.Write down three things that you are passionate about/care about.

V. Reber is a wife, mother, and assistant with CFA who aspires to be a great neighbor.

The Neighbor Challenge  1 – posted 6/27

The Neighbor Challenge 2  – posted 7/6

Image credit: marish / 123RF Stock Photo

LINCNewOrleans: Building Multi-Community Coalition

Kevin Kieschnick-LINCNewOrleans

LINCNewOrleans seeks to transform community by crossing lines: neighborhood lines, denominational lines, and cultural lines.  Building a coalition between 4 adjacent urban New Orleans neighborhoods is their goal; Marigny, Bywater, St. Claude, and St. Roch.  These four neighborhoods are very close geographically, (just East of the French Quarter), but very different culturally and socio-economically.  They have distinctly different assets and challenges.  LINCNewOrleans is building partnerships with churches in each neighborhood, and has identified a number of young leaders passionate about developing and strengthening their neighborhoods.

LINC’s vision is to build a “QUAD 4 COMMUNITY COLLABORATIVE” where a team from each neighborhood is trained in principles and processes of Asset Based Christian Community Development.  They will then be coached and mentored by LINCNewOrleans leaders on an ongoing basis, gathering together regularly with leaders from the other adjacent communities to share ideas, strategies, resources, and challenges with the larger community, for the benefit of all.

As these leaders are trained and mentored, they engage their congregations and neighborhoods to asset map their own communities, work with community residents to build new visions for strengthening their neighborhoods, and network within the community and across neighborhood lines to strengthen everyone’s work.  St. Roch may have resources and assets that are needed in Bywater, while Marigny might have human or material resources that could specifically benefit the people in St. Claude; that’s the idea of the networking strength.

Presently over 20 young leaders have been identified.  Together with LINCNewOrleans, these leaders are raising support to travel to the Twin Cities to attend the Christian Community Development Association conference this Fall.  Relationships are growing.  Capacity is being built.  And communities are being transformed!

The Neighbor Challenge–Week 2

By V. Reber

Last week I challenged you (and myself) to name our neighbors.  Knowing someone’s name is fundamental to relationship building.  It’s the start of our story, and when you take time to learn someone’s name you show you value them.  I have lived on my street for two weeks.  However, our family has lived in the broader neighborhood (an area that encompasses several blocks) for over a year.  So, let’s see how I did with week one’s challenge….

First, I’d like to say that even as I type this I am fighting a strong urge to list all of the reasons that I don’t know more neighbor’s names.  However, it may be more useful (and less pathetic) for me to explain how I met the neighbors that I do know.

Prior to moving into our house a family on the block that we already knew had a “Welcome to the Block” party (it was also a farewell to the couple that was moving away.)  Several neighbors attended, and we were able to spend a few hours learning names and hearing people’s stories (how long they had lived there, changes over the years, etc.).  The family that organized the party gave us the best housewarming gift, the opportunity to start building relationships with our neighbors.

So, now comes the real evaluation…how have I done meeting people on my own?

Does waving from across the street count?!!  We’ve been in the house unpacking….Ok, there are the excuses!  The fact is I haven’t made much of an effort.  I’ve started to walk across the street a couple of times, and have let that moment of awkwardness that seems inevitable turn me back home.  However, I’m not giving up.  I want to know my neighbors.

So, the challenge for next week, should you choose to accept it…meet a neighbor you haven’t met.

Week #2

Question:  What excuses do we make for not meeting our neighbors?

Challenge:  Introduce yourself to a neighbor you haven’t met.

V. Reber is a wife, mother, and assistant with CFA who aspires to be a great neighbor.

The Neighbor Challenge 1 – posted 6/27

The Neighbor Challenge 3 – posted 7/11

Friday Food for Thought: Gifts

Gifts by John McKnight

Question: If we want to create a more powerful neighborhood, what information do we need?
Thoughts: To bring neighbors together there are three kinds of useful information. We have to discover our neighbors’ gifts. We have to seek out local strangers. Finally we need to find out the groups people belong to, the institutions where they work or have connections. We start with the gifts.

Question: How do you find out this information?
Thoughts: You may want to find this information in a visit with individual neighbors or calling a meeting of several neighbors.

Question: If I decide to talk to neighbors, what do we discuss?
Thoughts: It can begin by uncovering the gifts of your neighbors. Here are some ways of thinking about this.

The kinds of gifts: There are four kinds. Three are practical. They are gifts of Head, Heart and Hand. The fourth is what you are willing to teach.

Head is knowledge. Do you know about history, language, who lives in that house.
Heart is passion. Love of children, prayer.
Hands is your skills of any kind. Carpentry, handyman, guitar, planning a garden. It is all you can do.
Teachable. What allows the gifts to build the neighborhood is our willingness to teach others.

(Resource: Guide to Capacity Inventories)

Question: How do we ask neighbors about their gifts?

This is not as easy as it might sound.

Your Introduction. Decide whether or not you want to phone a person to get together or knock on their door. Is there someone who will go with you? Friend, family member.

Three Ways to Open the Conversation:

  1. Reference. You are referred by someone. Mary said I should talk to you.
  2. Excuse. You have a specific purpose or excuse. How we can help the kids.
  3. Social. We thought it would be good if we got to know each other better. An invitation;  I would like to invite you and some others for lunch or dinner or picnic so we can meet each other

Re-posted with permission.  Click here to see the original article.

John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

The Neighbor Challenge

Written by V. Reber

Mr. Rogers had it right when he sang, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”  While Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was idyllic, many of the elements of the show highlight basic principles of Asset Based Community Development. He spent each half hour highlighting the gifts of his neighbors, asking them questions, and learning what was important to them.  Neighborhood problems (make-believe or not) were solved by those in the neighborhood using teamwork and service to one another.  It’s not a stretch to say that this popular icon of my generation was encouraging the type of neighborliness that we talk about, teach about, and hopefully model.

So, where have all the neighbors gone? Have we forgotten how to be neighborly, or simply decided there’s just no time?  I’m asking myself a lot of these questions as our family settles into a new neighborhood. Join me on this journey as I challenge myself (and you) to an honest assessment of ourselves as “neighbor.”

Week #1

Question:  What are the names of your neighbors?

Challenge:  Draw a diagram of your street with each house represented by a square.  Now label as many houses as you can by family name.  (If you’re really brave, draw the surrounding blocks as well!)

Next week I’ll share how I did…what did you discover?

V. Reber is a wife, mother, and assistant with CFA who aspires to be a great neighbor.


The Neighbor Challenge 2 – posted 7/6

The Neighbor Challenge 3 – posted 7/11

Working Together as God’s One Body

Kevin Kieschnick–LINCNewOrleans

Often Christian churches are hesitant or unwilling to cross denominational lines. We praise God that’s not the case in urban New Orleans. On Saturday May 19th, some 75 people gathered from three neighborhoods and three congregations to join together in a time of fun, games, and relationship! People from Journey 9th Ward on Alvar Street in the St. Claude neighborhood were there, as well as folks from Grace Baptist on Rampart in the Bywater, and St. Paul in the Marigny.

People from all three churches brought food and drinks to share. Some St. Paul folks organized games for the kids that were there, and the neighborhood enjoyed the smell of freshly grilled burgers and hot dogs. There was fried chicken, red beans & rice, German potato salad, and lots more!

Leaders from the three churches say that they hope we can make this a regular event, so that relationships can be initiated and grow, and we can work together as God’s one body to share the love of Jesus with the people in our adjacent neighborhoods. Thanks to all who put time and effort to make this such a special event, as well as all of who came to support the event! See you next time!

John McKnight: Taking Back Our Children

This video was originally posted at  


John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

Friday Food for Thought: Taking Time

How will you spend your long weekend?  Remembering, visiting, relaxing….?  As you enjoy the unofficial start of summer, take time to consider how you will be intentional about connecting with  neighbors over the next few months.  September is just around the corner!

Friday Food For Thought: Hope

“Hope is the Holy Spirit-given capacity to see above, beyond, or through the immediate ruin and mess all around us, in order to see the final accomplishment of grace that lies ahead.  Hope persists in seeing the world not only as it is, but as it can become.”  p. 16, Communities First

“That’s because you leave today, not committed to the kingdom of any culture, class, or racial group, or the kingdom of America or any other nation state, or even to the kingdom of any church, …; but rather to the kingdom of God, which is meant to turn all the other kingdoms on the head, to break open the unpredictable, and bring new hope to lives, neighborhoods, nations, and even the world. So God bless you in that wholly unpredictable and so needed ministry of hope.”  –Rev. Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners

Read the entire post here.

Communities First Association Invited to Join Panel Discussion

Jay Van Groningen

Jay Van Groningen

May 9, 2012 – CFA Executive Director, Jay Van Groningen has been invited to participate in the first annual meeting of the Global Leadership Network in Atlanta, GA. The GLN was launched by the Chalmers Center and CEO Dr. Brian Fikkert, Professor of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College and author of When Helping Hurts. The focus of GLN’s inaugural event will center on unpacking the question: What are the implications of When Helping Hurts’ school of thought for Christian philanthropy?

The panel discussion is titled: “Reflect and Effect of the Implications” and is scheduled for May 19th. It will be moderated by Dr. Michael Abrahams, Founder and Portfolio Manager of New Markets Financial Fund & a Global Leadership Network Member. Panelists include:

          Dr. Robert Lupton, author of Toxic Charity,
Jay Van Groningen of Communities First Association,
Steve Perry of Sacred Harvest Foundation,
Paul Park of First Fruit, Inc.,
Josh Kwan of David Weekley Family Foundation,
Norris Hill of Provision Foundation, &
Cole Costanzo of The Maclellan Foundation

Global Leadership NetworkThe Global Leadership Network (GLN) is a community of resource partners committed to informed generosity in poverty alleviation and supporting and advocating for church-centered, gospel-focused, microeconomic development strategies. Members of the GLN empower the Chalmers Center’s mission through contributing a minimum of $5,000 annually. Members of the Director’s Council commit to giving $25,000 annually. More information about the Global Leadership Network can be found here.

inCOMMON Community Development

inCOMMONOmaha, NE     “What if poverty could be stopped before it started?” One of the thought provoking questions addressed in this short clip from inCOMMON. “The solution to poverty won’t be found in programs, but in people.” [email protected]

Ms. Samuels, Peterson Ave, and God’s Glory

Bethany Dudley–Requip

Written by Steve Blom–Imag(in)e, Sauk Village

When I joined the Beautification Committee of Sauk Village this past Summer I saw it as a unique opportunity to be a part of something positive that the community was already doing.  It would be a chance to use my head/heart/hand gift of landscaping, and to develop some relationships.  Little did I know…

As a committee, we re-instated the Hootsie Awards.  This is an annual award given to those nominated by their neighbors for the work they put into maintaining and improving their properties.  As committee members, we were asked to judge the nominated properties in various categories.  Unable to go out with the rest of the committee on a Saturday, I went by myself on a Monday afternoon.  Almost through with the list I turned onto Peterson Ave.

What’s important to note is that Peterson Ave. is “that” street in the Village with the reputation.  It is labeled and avoided.  Comprised of a series of duplexes connected by mismatched siding, boarded windows, and uneven roof-lines people from outside of Sauk Village stereotype the rest of the community using Peterson Ave. as the standard.  My greatest concern was that being parked on the side of the street taking pictures would be viewed by some of the neighbors as another bank photographing a foreclosed home or worse.

“What could anyone possibly do with this tiny piece of property in this neighborhood to be nominated for an award?” was my judgmental thought-of-the-day as I pulled up to Ms. Samuels’ house.  I sat there, somewhat stunned, thinking to myself “THIS is what someone can do.”  A couple of minutes into my note-taking the garage door opened and out walked a woman who is looked at me suspiciously.  I rolled down my window and introduced myself.  Immediately her demeanor changed.  I told her that I loved her yard:  her use of fountains, the pavers and planters, the various ornamental trees and shrubs…”It’s beautiful!”  Ms. Samuels began to cry, looked to the sky and said, “Thank you, God. You have no idea what that means to me today.”  She told me that she understood the reputation of the street she lives on, and that she felt called by God to bring some beauty and peace to this neighborhood.  She shared that she is a breast-cancer survivor, and that she wants to live every day for God’s glory.  This landscape, this simple act of creating beauty, is one of the ways she is connecting with her neighbors.  We talked for a while that afternoon, and before leaving she blessed me with one of those hugs that makes you feel like you are a child being embraced by the Savior himself.

A month later, the winners were announced at the Village Board Meeting.  When Ms. Samuels’ name was read for 2nd place, she jumped over her husband’s legs, danced her way to the front, hugged every person on the committee and the Mayor.  She thanked God not for allowing her to score a touchdown, but for giving her the joy and ability to share his love in this way.  Ms. Samuels’ joy was being 2nd place.  In a room often filled with anger and arguments, this woman from Peterson Ave. filled it with love and peace.

We’re still learning about and developing trust within this community, and we probably always will be, but one of the greatest affirmations up to this point is that God is here in ways I hadn’t imagined.  Despite the labels we are so quick to assign others and ourselves, the evidence of redemption at work is irrefutable.


Who Doesn’t Like a BBQ?–Scott and Sammi’s Story

Rebecca Lujan Loveless–POLIS Institute

Scott and Sammi, residents of The Palms Trailer Park in the Holden Heights Neighborhood of Orlando, care about their neighborhood.  When asked what they think would make The Palms a better place to live, they said, “A place where friends and family can gather to barbecue, socialize and have kids play safely.”

They believe that having this community space will bring people together to get to know one another, which will lead to more trust between neighbors and even diminish petty theft and fighting.

“When you know your neighbor and they know you’ve got their back, they’re less likely to pick a fight with you over stupid stuff,” Scott said.

And after all, who doesn’t like barbecue?

There is a grassy area at the front of the neighborhood between the Trailer One Community Center and the Palms Chapel that is not used or fenced in.  The area borders one of the busiest streets in Orlando.  Kids wait for the bus in the morning, playing on the sidewalk while 18-wheelers race by.  The space has dead shrubbery and is riddled with ant piles and weeds.

Scott sees this area not as the “eyesore” that it is, but as a blank canvas that, if treated properly (with the help of neighbors and other donors), could turn into a place where friendships are grown and ideas and dreams are shared.

Scott is a Master Welder and landscaping expert.  He spent time and energy creating a blueprint for a professional BBQ Pit, Smoker and Griddle.  He also plotted out the landscaping plans, soil grading and re-fencing that he says will be necessary to create a space that is peaceful, safely protected from the busy street and able to hold a vegetable and herb garden.

The project can be accomplished for less than $1000.  Scott and Sammi have already been going door to door, to neighbors, with hand-drawn fliers showcasing the plans, asking people to pitch in.  Scott has also called several companies to ask for donations of cement block, sand and equipment.

Throughout the week you will see Scott out in the space leading volunteers from the neighborhood.  The space is taking shape. Fencing has been installed, shrubs and vines and flowers are planted and being watered by elderly women and young kids in the neighborhood.  Scott is committed to seeing this project come to fruition.  Even before it is complete it is already doing what he hoped: neighbors are coming together with a spirit of solidarity, working hard together, sharing stories, meals and ideas.  This typically overlooked neighborhood is becoming a place of hope.  Thanks to Scott and Sammi…and of course a little bit of barbeque.

Friday Food For Thought: Teens and Transformation

A recent post at highlighted the often overlooked giftedness of teens within a community.  We read in the local paper about “troubled youth” and the rising concern over teen apathy, but many teens have found ways to add to the neighborhood story in a positive way.  (And, my guess is that many more would join in if given the opportunity).

The post, written by Laura Fulton, points out the value and energy that teenage youth and enthusiasm can bring to a neighborhood, and five ways to start the process of connecting with teens in your area.  One commenter said that teens in her neighborhood are employed to do community listening and connecting.  Imagine a part-time job where a teen’s voice and ideas are heard, creativity and socializing are viewed as gifts, and relationships and leadership skills are formed.  Sounds like a perfect match!

Teens today are often typecast as surly, disinterested, and uninformed.  I challenge you to talk to a teen in your neighborhood. Ask about their interests, about what they see that works and doesn’t work, and what they would do to change things.  Listen.  Listen.  Listen for their gifts and passions, and begin to rewrite the character description of young people in your neighborhood’s story.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers

Powered by