Happy 4th of July!
July 4, 2012 Leave a comment
July 4, 2012 Leave a comment
July 2, 2012 Leave a comment
Originally posted here in January 2012.
Over the years, I have noticed that most Christians who get serious about Community Development – serious enough to work at it – try to start the work of neighborhood transformation from a church platform. They hope and expect that a congregation will engage in God’s redemption story in the neighborhood as a lead agent for positive change. They expect that the church will care enough about their neighbors and neighborhood to want to be a lead “player” in the neighborhood redemption story. They are soon disappointed with Church as agent for neighborhood transformation. Those who have launched neighborhood transformation from a church platform (be it new church or established church) feel isolated, alone, under-resourced, and disillusioned with church participation. While church is loaded with gifts for neighborhood transformation, their focus and energies seem directed to “healthy church” issues, not “healthy community” issues.
Church can be a good neighbor bringing gifts/contributions to the neighborhood transformation story. It can be great neighbor – taking responsibility for the neighborhood transformation story. CFA has learned that a best practices approach is to lead neighborhood transformation from outside the church (a non-profit) and to call on the church to bring their gifts (as much as they are willing) in the same way any other institution is invited to bring their gifts to the neighborhood transformation process. “Healthy church” and “healthy community” is not a problem to be solved. It is a polarity to be managed. A community is healthier when church gifts are a shaping force; a Church is healthier when as servant/witness it stretches itself in giving gifts for the redemption of the neighborhood it occupies.
Click here to see the original post from January 2012.
June 29, 2012 Leave a comment
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:
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.
June 11, 2012 Leave a comment
–University of Wisconsin-Madison
When she and nine other students at Richland Middle School in Richland Center, Wis. were invited to David Guy’s office, she wondered, “What are we in trouble for?”
But instead of a rebuke, Guy had a request: could the students help older adults learn the digital technology that is so intuitive to teens, but so irritating to elders? And could the students decide how to do it themselves?
“We thought it would be a good idea to help mature adults use technology, but we had to figure out how to do it,” says Nelson, who has now graduated eighth grade. At the meeting, Steve Kohlstedt, Richland County agent for University of Wisconsin Extension, told the students that seniors can feel left out and isolated, especially in a rural area, and he challenged the students to figure out a way to reverse these harmful trends.
The result was a “Technology Expo” on May 29 and 30, where 67 middle-school students helped as many as 100 elders — including some of their own grandparents — with cell phones, Facebook, Internet searches, photo scanning, and other staples of the digital world. Facebook, iPads and YouTube were particular favorites among the elders.
All the teaching was done one-on-one, using techniques and technologies chosen by the students themselves.
The expo is an example of a striking new trend in community development, says Kohlstedt. “Asset-based community development does not start from needs but rather from assets. You take a look at what you have, the talents and knowledge, and incorporate them in a way that can make a difference.”
Technology Expo was one element in the Active Aging Research Center, a statewide project funded by the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research and headquartered at the CHESS Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Asset-based development heeds four principles, says Tom Mosgaller, director of change management at CHESS. “You start from the bottom up, it’s community-led, strength-based, always acting with an emphasis on the community; their interests are the center of our activities.”
The broad goals of the effort in Richland and nearby counties, Mosgaller says, were determined locally: to help older people remain in their chosen homes, to increase socialization and reduce isolation.
“They were really interesting in bridging the gap with elders; this came up several times in our discussions. And they were excited to share something they feel very comfortable with, to be part of involving the middle school with the community.” David Guy
According to David Gustafson, a professor of industrial engineering who founded the CHESS Center and leads the active aging center, “To meet the overall goal of keeping elderly people in their homes and out of nursing homes, we are addressing five key areas: falls prevention, safe driving, improving the dependability of home-care services, reducing loneliness and isolation, and improving medication adherence.”
The active aging project is also working in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.
Gustafson, a pioneer in the use of computer technology for health-care information and decision-making, says the project will develop problem-solving software and equipment by exploiting expertise at UW-Madison and elsewhere.
“For example, we might create a cane or a walker containing an RFID [radio-frequency identification] chip. If the cane and its user become separated by more than three feet, the cane might sound an alarm. A lot of elderly people tend to leave their canes and walkers behind, and that causes falls,” Gustafson says.
Falls among the elderly are a major cause of broken bones that lead to a cascade of medical problems, loss of mobility, and often force an unwanted move to a nursing home, Gustafson explains.
Meanwhile, back at the middle school, a smiling David Guy likes what he sees. One of his goals was to promote leadership skills among his students, and it’s clear that they have brought to the Expo enthusiasm — and also dedication and organizational talents.
Many of the kids already had experience volunteering with the elderly, Guy says. “They were really interesting in bridging the gap with elders; this came up several times in our discussions. And they were excited to share something they feel very comfortable with, to be part of involving the middle school with the community,” he says.
Lori Ward, of Muscoda, had brought some questions to the expo, and she left satisfied. “I’m learning how use a computer and a cell phone, and I would come again, definitely. This was very helpful,” she says.
Click here to see original post published on June 8, 2012. Re-posted with permission.
June 6, 2012 Leave a comment
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!
May 25, 2012 1 Comment
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!
May 18, 2012 Leave a comment
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
The 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.
May 14, 2012 Leave a comment
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.
May 4, 2012 Leave a comment
May 3, 2012 Leave a comment
Reblogged from Brown Consultancy, LLC:
“Body” was a term which the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians used to describe the Body of Christ. This term, Body, was used by the Roman Empire to explain how diverse its empire was. It showed how each member of the Roman Empire had their proper place. So, if you are a hand of the “Body,” do not seek to serve other capacities within the empire.
Read more… 606 more words
April 16, 2012 Leave a comment
LifeLine CDC has a saying: “Everyone no matter how rich has a need. Everyone no matter how poor has a gift. That is why we build and celebrate community.” ™ We were able to experience that again with one of our partners in Winton, California, a small rural community with over 30% unemployment. There four men have stepped forward, giving abundantly of their gifts despite hard times.
Two years ago David, a Winton community member, returned to Winton after finishing his 4 year college degree in Business. He returned hoping to find a job but was unable to do so. Instead he started volunteering at the Winton Community Center. Last year David assisted at the Community Center with the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program, and this year he headed up the program. The VITA program helped over 70 individuals and families get their taxes prepared for free and brought over $80,000 back into the community. These low-income families had no other way to get their taxes done during these difficult economic times, and were so thankful for the service.
Winton LifeLine Community Center is a site for the Work Experience Program for the County. These men and women work at the Winton Community Center for a few hours a day learning new skills and helping them with the community work. George and Francisco came to work with the center because they could not find employment. During the many conversations we found that both have amazing gifts in auto mechanics and are generally able to fix just about anything.
The first project they worked on was a passenger bus that belongs to LifeLine CDC and is being used in Winton. This bus is being used for transporting the youth to do the graffiti abatement, assist moving people, picking up and dropping off donations, and transporting senior citizens to special events.
After successfully fixing the bus they worked on several other projects. As the team talked about exchanging gifts they came up with the idea of having a car repair clinic. What if these men would help some of the seniors get some minor repairs done and teach some of the community members to do their own maintenance … that would be a blessing for everyone! So the plans are being made to have a community wide ‘car clinic’ and the contacts with the Vintage Car Club will make this an even bigger event!
At the same time Chico came to the center and starting volunteering his time. In his broken English he stated one day: “I will start cleaning your bathroom. You don’t have to worry about it anymore. I will do it for Jesus and I know how to do it good.” We thanked him and he said “No, thank you, you give me purpose again.”
All four men felt useless, unemployed, and under-used and yet in the context of community conversations all got to use their gifts and abilities to help others.
When we say that everyone has a gift, we mean it! So, not a day goes by when we don’t discover one more gift that makes the community richer, that brings the Shalom of God into the neighborhood. When David assists someone with taxes, he blesses the community, when George and Francisco fix the cars they bless the community, when Chico cleans the bathroom he blesses the community. We often hear about the ‘tipping point’ and we are looking forward to the time when the teams slogan “Putting Winton on the map for something good” becomes a reality!
April 9, 2012 Leave a comment
Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2011, Street Church sought to develop relationships with the residents of Downtown Hampton, Virginia. Street Church is a community ministry led by Steve Edwards with numerous helpers from several area churches. OneChurch has been working with Steve to develop ABCD strategies for this community over the past year. Our major effort was in the Harbor Square apartments, a low-income housing development in the center of the city. During the Summer of 2011, Street Church provided Sunday evening worship services on the grounds, a Summer Vacation Bible School, several clothing and food drives, and conducted surveys in the community. These efforts resulted in good relationships being built with the members of this community, several city officials, and local helping agencies such as H.E.L.P. – a ministry to the homeless of the area, and area churches.
In the Fall of 2011 this effort ended as the weather changed and the city purchased the apartment complex and moved the residents out of the area. Street Church and OneChurch have been meeting to discern our Lords plans for us during this time. As a result, we recently formed a leadership team committed to applying ABCD methods of community development in a strategic manner in this neighborhood.
This team came together as we sought to develop deeper relationships with those who participated in our Street Church events in 2011. We shared the book, “When Helping Hurts,” with key leaders (about 50 people) which has ignited an interest in our efforts. This team has committed to be trained in ABCD methods, to study “When Helping Hurts” in a small group setting, and to begin implementation of a consensus plan that will emerge through a Technology of Participation (ToP) consensus workshop in April. This group of loosely connected but caring people willing to get involved in some “to/for” ministry efforts in a needy community has transitioned into a team committed to learning and applying ABCD “with” methods in a specific downtown Hampton neighborhood for the foreseeable future.
March 30, 2012 Leave a comment
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
2011 was quite a remarkable year for CFA. CFA is an association, and CFA members are all lodged in regional intermediary organizations. Most of their host organizations do a mix of poverty alleviating programs and church mobilizing for poverty alleviation. The common factor that draws members to CFA is their focus on neighborhood transformation using Asset Based Community Development approaches. CFA members in 2011 have developed into a substantial professional network with an impressive, working tool kit of skills and resources. We can confidently say as an association, that we know how to work within neighborhoods in a way that leads neighbors to directing their own neighborhood progress, and that more churches are engaging in the work in respectful, appropriate, supportive ways .
From a big picture perspective the major challenges for CFA in 2011 were these:
Looking at 2011 in the rear view mirror causes us to praise God for how He has used CFA in raising leadership for transforming a growing number of neighborhoods. May He be pleased and direct our path in 2012.
Jay Van Groningen, Executive Director
Click here for the full annual report.
March 28, 2012 Leave a comment
This post was written by Wendy McCaig, the founder and executive director of Embrace Richmond (a CFA partnering organization). You can find the original post here.
Robert Lupton’s book, “Toxic Charity”, issues us all with a strong challenge – to move away from “an entrenched giveaway mentality” that destroys human dignity and damages communities in the long run. For this mentality to shift we have to “restructure our established one-way charity systems” and create opportunities for people to work.
There are three basic approaches to poverty; relief, individual betterment and community development.
Relief programs are focused on “giving a fish.” Lupton warns us of the down side saying,
“Loading an area down with poverty programs and human services can virtually ruin its chances of economic rebirth.”
Individual betterment programs (tutoring, mentoring, training) are focused on “teaching people to fish.” Lupton writes,
“Betterment programs do make a difference. Yet, as important as these services may be (essential, some would say), serving people is distinctly different from developing people.”
Community development is focused on improving the “condition of the pond.” Many of our urban communities have become so toxic that no amount of relief or betterment programming is effective because everyone is swimming in polluted waters, often made worse by undisciplined giving.
A healthy pond requires “ownership by the community of their community.” For a community to assume ownership of its own future, residents have to care enough to get involved. The goal of the community developer is discovering the unrealized hopes and dreams of the neighbors. For the past three years, that is what we have been listening for in the Hillside Community where Embrace Richmond has been engaged. We have found these words from Lupton to be true,
“The dreamers are seldom connected to the resources that provide nutrients to give those dreams life—that is, until by chance or by providence, someone in the village meets a connected person with a heart, a person who has time to listen, a person with both imagination and resources.
Hope, smothered dim under years of survival pressures, begins to flicker once again. In time, after the trustworthiness of the connecting person can be tested, after the opportunity is subjected to ample reality testing, hope can have free rein. It is a dangerous, fragile, exhilarating moment when the poor cast off their restraints and begin to believe. And this transformative moment, more than any other moment, is what the community developer lives for and what the community thirsts for.”
I have been blessed to have witnessed this beautiful reclaiming of hope and faith many times, but in each case it took years of listening, dreaming, encouraging, and investing. We now have a handful of individuals that we call our “street saints.” These individuals have come from difficult circumstances and they want to help others in their neighborhood thrive.
All of these individuals have dreams that they cared enough about to invest in. They are committed to doing what they can with what they have and are inviting others from their neighborhood to join them in making these dreams for their community a reality.
However, simply engaging people in shaping the future of their community is not enough. Lupton asks this question,
“Will the proposed activity be wealth-generating or at least self-sustaining for the community?”
This is the question that I have been asking myself a lot lately. In six months, Embrace Richmond will let go of our AmeriCorps funding which currently provides 75% of the funds that support our community development efforts. The majority of these funds have been used to provide stipends for the dreamers named above. I have watched each one of these individuals find new hope, meaning and purpose through the work they have done in the Hillside Community. Our goal now is to figure out how to help them turn these hopes and dreams into “wealth-generating” or at-least “self-sustaining” initiatives. As difficult as it was to build this amazing team, I suspect this next step is going to be even more challenging.
However, I strongly agree with Robert Lupton that creating sustainable employment opportunities is one of the most important elements in caring for the spirit and soul of people. Lupton writes,
“One of the surest ways to destroy self-worth is subsidizing the idleness of able-bodied people. Made in the image of God, we are created with intrinsic worth. And anything that erodes a rightful sense of pride and self-respect diminishes that image. Life offers no fulfillment without work. Work is a gift, a calling, a human responsibility. And the creation of productive, meaningful employment fulfills one of the Creator’s highest designs. Because of that, it should be a central goal to our service. LITTLE AFFIRMS HUMAN DIGNITY more than honest work.”
Lupton tells a story in an earlier book titled, “Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life”, about a church that started a clothing closet where everything was free and over time that clothing closet became a thrift store that ultimately created jobs. He also tells the story of a church that took its benevolence fund to start a jobs bank and how a food pantry became a food coop. It is this kind of “social enterprise” thinking that we all need to engage in more. Making money is not an evil thing. Creating jobs for our friends is far more compassionate than expecting them to stand in lines with their hands out for the rest of their lives.
To go beyond charity and really get to the core issue underlying poverty, we have to create economic opportunities in low-income neighborhoods. There is no other way to create a sustainable healthy neighborhood. How many jobs could be created by churches if they used the funds that are supporting “relief” ministries to create social enterprise opportunities?
I know first-hand that it is far harder to develop neighborhood leaders, create sustainable employment and change a community than it is to simply give handouts. I pray more Christians will awaken to the fact that one-way giving approaches are harmful but also recognize that they can be restructured in a way that could be life giving to the community if they were turned into community owned social enterprise opportunities.
March 16, 2012 1 Comment
Peter Block, author of Community: The Structure of Belonging and co-author of The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, spoke on March 12, 2012 in Grand Haven, MI. Here is an excerpt:
“Community is based on a gift mindedness which means that the deficiency that you might call me is not who I am. It bothers me when people get introduced, ‘Peter I’d like you to meet my friend John, he’s homeless.’ I say that’s not who John is. I don’t show up and say, ‘I’m Peter and I’m housed.’”
“You don’t identify yourself by what you’re not. The whole deficiency mindset is what shifts when you start caring about a citizen based society instead of a consumer based society.”
February 29, 2012 Leave a comment
“Community ministry involves more than just starting another program or running another event. Effective community ministry requires working with a community to capture pictures of what could be different and better. Community vision that is effective grows out of long-term, sustainable, and relational interactions with community residents.”
Excerpt taken from page 28 of Communities First. Click here for more information on this resource.