Different ways people best engage with Community Development

what are you best at?

When seeking to engage with our local communities using an asset based approach it is often very helpful to first apply that strength based lens to our congregations.  Asking powerful questions to draw out what assets, passions and gifts we have ourselves.  There are two significant reasons for this:

  1. Where our place of strength meets a place of strength in our local community we have found a great starting point for connection (a bright spot)
  2. When people are working from a point of strength they will do so with greater drive, energy and love.

To this end I think it is fair to say that in any group of people there will be people who engage with community engagement/development in a different ways and all are useful.  All are MOST useful when engaged in the way that best inspires them.  This is reflective of our understanding of the Church as a body made up of many parts, all of which work together to enhance and compliment one another.

The most helpful way that I personally have come to think of these strength-groups in community development is as:

Co-imagine-rs – those who set the vision and ensure that people stay true to that original dream.  These people are those who like to re articulate a lot and can be a little frustrating to others because these seem to just keep banging on about the same thing all the time.  These people are very helpful because, if well utilised, they stop mission-drift and, if given the right language and tools, can keep people inspired.

Co-designers – those dreamers and creative types who are really good at thinking outside-of-the-box and leading teams- often these will be those in key leadership.  These people might be frustrating because they can’t seem to stay on one task or idea but always want to do something new or differently.

Co-creators- the do-ers. They may not seem to cast vision and may even get frustrated with those who do keep banging on about vision because they just want to “get on with it”.  Alternatively they might just be the “foot soldier” type who stick their hands up to bake scones every morning tea and never seem to tire of it (but must always be given the appreciation they deserve for this tireless work ethic).

Community Conduits- those who seem disinterested or even uninterested, who just don’t stick their hands up for anything and/or who actively seem to sit on their hands.  Most of the time these people are this way because this community is not their primary community or primary focus.  While often the frustration of these projects with the right inspiration from the other groups these people will be the sales people of the work you are doing to a wider audience within their primary communities and focus areas (often without you even knowing it).

When drawing out these strengths I am often inclined to start at the top of that list and work my way down- to find those who are best at casting vision, at setting a course and most of all of selling that vision to others.  To work (probably using a circle council style gathering) to get them around a vision that inspires them and then get them to articulate who might be the creative people to put the legs (and “legs” don’t have to be programs, just action) on how to outwork that vision (for example using some open space) and then get those creative people to recruit their workers while sharing the story well and often with the wider community so as to inspire those community conduits.

 

Hope that’s of help and credit to Richard Harmer who has helped a lot of my thinking in this area.

If you would like a further conversation on how this might play out in your community please feel free to contact me at Baptist Care SA (jhubbard@baptistcaresa.org.au)

Posted in Helpful Tools, What is ABCD? | Leave a comment

Faith in Action (in the second half of 2014)

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Last week Peter and I had a long conversations about our favourite moments in the Faith in Action initiative.  Two things stood out as working really well – visiting churches and the longer workshops.  We have decided to run with these themes in the second half of this year.

Visiting Churches

Earlier in the year we were invited to visit Blackwood Uniting Church and talked to their leaders about the community development tools which they may not have considered as part of their ministry.  Our thoughts were blogged here:

Joanna and I would really like to do more of this.  But to do more we need to be invited.   So here is our offer to you.  If you wanted a long conversation about your place and the principles which you might draw on from ABCD then Peter and I would love to visit.  All care and no obligation to take our advice.  Think of it as a free community church health check!

Longer Workshops

In February Richard Harmer hosted a workshop which reopened a conversation about Domestic Violence.  This all day workshop drew a new group together to look at domestic violence through an assets based community development lens.
http://faithinaction.net.au/2014/02/theory-u-and-dv/  It was inspiring and created a group which is still ongoing.

We would like to do more of this.  More one day or one and a half day workshops with Richard Harmer,  Peter Kenyon and others who good at opening up the community development space with creativity and intention.

Calendar Changes

So the workshop scheduled for next week International aid to our place” has been rescheduled and reworked into a Longer Workshop on Friday 28th November where will have more time and a larger group to dig into the place of international aid and refugees.

Revised 2014 Calendar

Peter and I are reworking the second half of the year calendar to fit with our ‘Visiting Churches’ and ‘Longer Workshops’ approach.  I expect it will be posted by 8th July 2014.

 

Keep in touch

Peter and Joanna

Posted in Events, Faith in Action | Tagged | 1 Comment

A Great Blog on Independence as False Gospel (by Joy Bennett)

Thanks to my good friend Mandy for sharing with me this post from Joy Bennett who has captured a lot better what I was musing on a couple of weeks ago about prevalent theologies of personal independence:

Independence: the False Gospel Destroying American Christianity by Joy Bennett

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Obviously her article is written from an American perspective but I do think we are suffering from much of the same fiercely damaging independence in Australia (especially with our growing political language of “lifters” and “leaners”).

The idea of asset based community development is not to create additional programs to “prop-up” the poor and disadvantaged in our communities but rather to create communities of inter-dependence in which our mutual strengths and mutual weaknesses enrich us all or, as Joy puts it:

“God didn’t create us to be self-sufficient. He created us to live together, to complement each other’s weaknesses with our strengths, and allow their strengths to complement our weaknesses.”

This is not a radically socialist thought but one echoed by the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr:

“All this is simply to say that all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people cannot expect to live more than twenty or thirty years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”

And indeed by the Apostle Paul:

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. (Selected verses from 1 Corinthians 12, The Message)

 

I encourage you to check out Joy’s post and hope it can be as encouraging to you as it was to me.

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5 Tips for Successful Collaboration between Agencies & Churches

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I have always been terrible at learning new languages. I blame mild dyslexia but my attempts at both modern and ancient languages to date have been less than inspiring. Yet in a strange way I seem to have, by immersion, become unknowingly bi-lingual. That is by sitting in both Church ministry positions and in Church Care Agencies I have come to have a great appreciation for both but an equal appreciation for the fact that we don’t always speak the same language.

Both are desiring the outworking of the Kingdom of God- to see justice done, to extend mercy and to see people experience abundant life. We therefore should find collaboration easy. The language we use and the means that we prefer, however, often frustrates communicants to the point they retreat to their preferred worlds and dismiss the other out of hand.

My new role is in many ways about bridging this gap and so I thought one helpful way to begin would be to provide some tips from my experiences of successful collaborative action.

So here are 5 of my top tips for building good relationships and communicating well between Churches and agencies:

  1. Centralise around a common purpose. Find an end goal to which all parties can be inspired and excited to work towards. Issues of justice, compassion, and human flourishing are all common motivations. (eg. a common purpose may be working towards a more connected local community- thereby reducing social isolation.) Continuing to draw from, refer back to and centralise conversations around this common purpose as you move forward will support the growth of the relationship.
  2. Find common language. As I have hinted at above- almost as significant as finding common purpose is finding common language. Be willing to lay down unhelpful language. While certain words might be significant to how you understand your organisation’s mission they may not always be helpful. The unhelpfulness of certain words to this specific conversation does not dismiss their significance. Being sensitive to how people are responding to/understanding certain words and being willing to modify language (without sacrificing meaning) is true humility!
  3. Articulate clear expectations and outcomes. I appreciate that Churches often want to avoid hard measurements because they sound too clinical. Agencies, on the other hand are hardwired towards data. I can appreciate both positions (I once had a sign above my desk that said “In God I trust everyone else will have to bring me data”). Regardless of your preference can I encourage you that having some agreed ways of measuring success (of knowing if you are making a difference) can be incredibly encouraging for participants and Churches. The data should serve the people not the other way around. It’s important, then, to find suitable ways of measuring this that do not unnecessarily encumber outworking the central purpose.
  4. Commit to celebrate different means and create space for them. There is not one right path. Until we can learn to celebrate that both Churches and Agencies contribute something irreplaceable and unique to the betterment of the community and indeed the furthering of the Kingdom of God, we can not work together. Just as a body has many parts; so different means of supporting our community must be celebrated. Continue to centre on the common purpose but allow all partners to contribute their unique means of coming at that end goal.
  5. Most importantly of all: Commit to open and continuous communication. Focus on using communication to building trust, assuring mutual objectives and above all encouragement of each other. Don’t be surprised when this is a challenge to begin with particularly if there seems to be a tug-of-war over control. It is important that as trust is built opportunities are given for each groups cards/concerns to be laid on the table. We can’t truly collaborate and move forward until we trust each other enough to air our concerns. Common concerns may be:

    “we are concerned that the agency only cares about the social and not about the spiritual”;
    “that the fact that the agency receives money from the government will prevent them from supporting us in our primary purposes as a Church”;
    “that the Church may not have the right regularly systems in place to ensure the protection of our most vulnerable clients”

    … whatever the concerns are we can only get past them once we have articulated them. We can only articulate them once we have built the trust to know that, by articulating them we are not going to irrevocable offend the other party and destroy the potential partnership.

Have you engaged in successful collaborative projects between an agency and a Church congregation? What made these successful? What challenges did you experience? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Posted in The Church and NFPs | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

On reading Scripture only for myself.

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Part of my change in job has required my husband and I to change, not only our place of worship, but also the denomination (movement) in which we participate. This can seem like a small thing to Gen X/Y-ers like us. Also the practical differences between the Churches of Christ in Australia (in which I was previously serving) and the Baptist Assembly Churches in South Australia (in which I now find myself) are reasonably minimal (despite the fact that certain people have chosen to refer to this change as a “conversion”). Still it has given me pause to reflect on some of the traditions I have become accustomed to and how these traditions might affect the way we engage with our communities.

One such tradition I have been reflecting on is the “personal quiet time” approach to the reading of Scripture which is commonly encouraged in both these church movements. There are certainly many merits to this practice. Without a universally followed lectionary, however, we can find ourselves wandering through our Bible reading, engaging individually with God, but without any particular reference to one another.

Today, for example, I read a beautiful passage from the Psalms:

God makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate –
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts
Psalm 104:14-15

Reading this as an individual can assure me that God intends for me to be inspired by creation and to gain strength from the abundance that God has provided in it.

Reading this only as an individual, however, I can be distracted from the fact that my personal enjoyment of creation is intended to be framed within a community.

By so doing I can lose sight of the opportunity presented to me to partner with God in building a community in which ALL human hearts are gladdened, faces shining and lives sustained. I can become absorbed in a diminished existence in which I only engage individually with this goodness (experiencing as much of life as I can, consuming as I desire and acquiring whatever I can).

Considering this passage as a part of a community, however, I must consider how to reconcile my personal experience of this goodness while my neighbour battles unemployment or domestic violence. Reading this passage in isolation I risk become like the wealthy landholder in Luke (12:13-21) who choses to build bigger barns to store his abundant grain rather than inviting his hungry neighbours to share in the harvest.

So while I will not be giving up the practice of reading scripture personally and meditatively myself; I am curious about how favouring this approach may be affecting our interaction with our wider community?

Feel free to contribute your thoughts, ideas and dreams below.

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Be Adventurous, Be Brave, Be Humble (on finishing up at MarionLIFE Community Services)

Be Adventurous Be Brave Be Humble copy

Today is my last day as Director of MarionLIFE Community Services; an organisation I have had the privilege to lead for over 5 years now.

NB: Finishing well is my excuse for my lack of blogging in recent weeks.
 

I have learnt a lot in my time at MarionLIFE: about myself, about Community Development and about Ministry.

As I was reflecting on this in preparation for my final sermon last Sunday it seemed like there was too much to even begin to summarise. Three things, however, stood out to me to leave with MarionLIFE and to take with me into my new adventure:

1. I have learnt that Community Development requires us to be adventurous.
While it is safer to attempt to replicate a successes being had elsewhere the biggest challenges we face as a Church and as a society are not going to be overcome if we keep doing the same things we have always done! Our community is unique, our church is unique and therefore our interactions need also to be creatively unique.

2. I have learnt that Community Development requires us to be brave.
Failure is painful and yet in order to be truly creative we must try things that have never been tried before and doing so puts us at high risk of not succeeding (at least 8 times out of 10). It takes a lot of courage to be willing to keep getting up and to keep being creative in the face of this.

3. I have learnt that above all Community Development requires us to be humble.

Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others – Jacob M Braude

Good Community Development requires us to allow those previous most-overlooked and marginalised to set the pace and to lead the process. This is incredibly humbling and messy work and not for the impatient. But it is entirely reflective of the character of Christ.

Thanks to all my friends at the Marion and Edwardstown Churches of Christ,
to the staff and volunteers at MarionLIFE Community Services
and to the communities with whom we have partnered and explored.

 

SO WHERE TO FROM HERE?
I have been given the distinct privilege of growing a new position with Baptist Care in walking alongside Baptist (and other) Churches across South Australia as they develop in their own unique relationships with their local communities. I look forward to sharing more of this with you as I begin the position in July.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this please contact me.

Of course, as always, stay in touch by subscribing to this blog through the box in the top right hand corner of this page.

Posted in Chaos & Failure, The Church and NFPs | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

How does the church respond to #YesAllWomen?

joanna hubbard:

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If Churches want to be places of restoration in our communities we can not abide this “toxic silence”.

Thank you Melinda for your courage and leadership.

Originally posted on Thinking Out Loud ...:

I remember the conversation so vividly. I was seventeen, it was a Saturday morning in summer, and our youth group was clearing the garden of an elderly church member. Taking a break, I found myself sitting cross-legged in a circle on the grass with five other young women around my age. I don’t remember how the conversation started, or who said something first. It wasn’t a topic we had talked about before, nor was it one we ever mentioned again. But someone was brave enough to share her experience of being groped by one of the guys in our group – not asked for, not consented to. Someone else told a similar story, then someone else. And for the first time in my life, I realised that this kind of thing wasn’t something that had just happened to me, or to a couple of us, or even to most of us. It was…

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