Community Development

Yesterday I went to a Pastor’s workshop called “Love your Neighbor.”  It was sponsored by our PNW UM Conference.  And at the conference I heard a disturbing idea that I can’t shake, and I can’t shake it because it’s messing with one of my foundational understandings of what I have been taught ministry is. Most of the ministry I have done has been what we call “needs based ministry”.   The church’s job is to search the community for it’s deepest needs and try to meet those needs with all our resources, or “assets”.  This makes sense, right.  We have the resources.  We identify where the need is in the community.  And we, the “heroes”, get to do what we like to do…save people!

The speaker at this workshop, a proponent of ABCD (Asset Based Community Development), began his sharing by saying that this understanding of ministry (based on need) is all wrong! “Say what?!?”   In fact, he said that when we base all our assessments of a community on need, we become “pimps of poverty” (his words not mine).     We set up a system where “they” (the needy) become needier, and “we” (the people with assets), in order to perpetuate our need to be the heroes, become more needed!   You can see where this going.  Not a good spiral.  

Enter ABCD (Asset Based Community Development)!   A ministry that isn’t based as much on need as on assets!  A belief that all people, no matter what their circumstances, have gifts and assets.  Our job as community leaders is to go out and assess our community not based on needs only, but on assets…on what a community has to offer the world.   Wow!  This just blows my mind!  

Listed below are some of ABCD’s key components:

Everyone Has Gifts; people can contribute and want to contribute. Gifts must be discovered.

Relationships Build a Community; see them, make them, and utilize them. An intentional effort to build and nourish relationships is the core of ABCD and of all community building.

Citizens at the Center, it is essential to engage the wider community as actors not just as recipients of services (clients).

Leaders Involve Others as Active Members of the Community. Leaders from the wider community of churches, neighborhoods, and local business, must engage others from their sector to gain trust, influence, and relationship.

Ask, Ask, Ask – asking and inviting are key community-building actions. “Join us. We need you.” This is the song of community.

Institutions Have Reached Their Limits in Problem-Solving.  All institutions such as government, non-profits, and businesses are stretched thin in their ability to solve community problems. They cannot be successful without engaging the rest of the community in solutions.

The part I love about this is the basic understanding of the world is that each of us has gifts!   And that we are happiest when we are using these gifts to help the world!

May God continue to move and shake us.  May God continue to turn our stale understandings upside down.   May God continue to re-energize us and fill us with new understandings and visions.

Your pastor, learning to look at all the world through our gifts and assets and not what we don’t have, Brook  

Tim Schaaf