What is Community Development? A Fishing Analogy…

(Originally published in the CFA Summer 2011 Newsletter)

Evidence of a community being transformed:

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How is Your Church Engaging the Community?

This exercise gives you a quick overview of how your church is engaging the community. An accurate picture of the church’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals for outreach is useful in pointing the church toward its next steps in developing transformational community ministry.

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Developing Leaders For Community Transformation

This document gives some advice on what to look for in a community leader and partner.

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ABCD Training

There is a trend today among American Evangelical and Bible believing church leaders to talk about Community Transformation (CT). The content behind the label however has been anything but uniform.

To some CT is about:
•    Getting pastors in a city to pray together for their city.
•    Getting pastors and civic leaders to cooperate together on an initiative
•    Creating a city-wide day of service where church members bless their city with good deeds.
•    Strengthening programs in the city that help the poor.
•    Developing programs of assistance for poor and disenfranchised people

Rarely is the content about:
•    Convening neighbors and finding out what they would like to work on together to make their neighborhood or city better.
•    Connecting neighbors with neighbors in ways that add value to both
•    Creating an agenda for change with a neighborhood and then shepherding the change.
•    Harvesting the gifts of a person or a neighborhood for the benefit of the neighborhood.

One of the tough questions for churches in North America is if they want to do good OR if they want to make a difference. Doing good is easy and doesn’t cost much. Making a difference is long, daunting, hard, relationship based, work. Too many churches care about doing good, without caring about the legacy of their charity – what difference it makes in the long haul!

Towards the end of September I had opportunity to visit Knoxville TN.  The purpose of my visit was to teach a group of church leaders about Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).

Rev. Andrew Rittenhouse had assembled 24 church leaders who wanted to learn about ABCD. They wanted to see their churches make a difference AND they wanted to see their neighborhoods changed.

Following the training some of the participants targeted two specific neighborhoods where they plan to implement ABCD strategies and work for the long haul towards community transformation.

In these neighborhoods they will be:

  • Strategically walking the streets and prayerfully seeing what God sees there. They will look at all of the gifts God has already placed there. They will look for the problems and needs there. They will begin praying for the neighborhood and praying against forces of darkness there. They will pray for the Spirit to bring a spirit of cooperation and vision for the community. They will begin connecting residents one to another in ways that allow blessings and encouragement to flow among neighbors.
  • They will be mapping institutions and their gifts already present there and imagining ways to use those gifts as a blessing in the community.
  • They will be listening to what residents care about most and inviting them to work together to change the things they care about most.
  • They will develop programs to respond to needs and issues that the neighbors identify as the most important things to work on.
  • Pray for Rev’s Rittenhouse and Walker and their commitments to specific neighborhoods! Pray that God will bless their engagements with their neighbors.
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