What Learned from Churches, Part Two

Reaching not only Urban Poor Neighborhoods But also Middle Class Neighborhoods

Getting church members to work in urban poor neighborhoods makes it harder to raise up local trainers. The churches focus more easily on nearby neighborhoods which most frequently are middle class. Doing projects in the church’s neighborhood makes it easier to motivate the members. However, when working in middle-class neighborhoods, the church members are asked to focus on enhancing assets rather than supplying needs since middle-class neighbors are likely to be of the opinion that they have few needs.

Jesus’ loving concern extends just as surely into middle and upper class neighborhoods. He cares for all. Poverty is more than physical and financial lack. Emotional and spiritual poverty are crippling. There is no place that cannot use the reconciliation and touch of Jesus.

Change Summary:
• Focus the church on its own extended neighborhood with the intent of establishing relationships with and being a blessing to those neighbors.
• Get to know the neighbors. Begin walking the neighborhood regularly, greeting and meeting people.
• See “Starting Outreach in the Neighborhood” below.

Relationships – The Starting Point
Relationships are critical in rural CHE programs but even more so urban neighborhood settings. Very few people know each others names, let alone anything about each other. Trust and willingness to help are very limited. Neighbors are isolated from each other partially out of choice, partially from lack of opportunity. What is more, they feel powerless to overcome the isolation.

Motivating people in church to reach out to the neighborhood where they live is a challenge which few churches have considered since the concept of transforming a middle-class neighborhood is a novel one. Building relationships – neighbors knowing neighbors – is the place to start.

Change Summary:
• Recognize that this approach can work in a variety of ways with the result that neighbors become aware of and learn to trust the neighboring church down the street.
• First the church needs to map all church members and define neighborhoods around groups of people who live near to each other.
• Have a desert meeting for all the church people in a given neighborhood, challenging them to get to know their neighbors
• For next step see Starting Outreach in Your Neighborhood below

Starting Outreach in the Neighborhood
Because most people do not know their neighbors, the first step is getting to know their neighbors in their block on both sides of the street.

Here are some key ways to accomplish this:
• Start walking your neighborhood and greet people when you see them, introducing yourself. Learn their names and what house they live in. Make notes later.
• When you see people outside, go greet them.
• Start barbequing on the driveway in front of your house and invite a few nearby to come.
• Invite all the people to come to a neighborhood barbeque. If they offer to bring something, let them but don’t assign things.
• Do block a party, closing off street on the “Local Night Out” which many cities have.
• Ask two questions: ” What do you like about this block?” and “What one thing would you change?”
• If there is an elderly family on the street or a family in need , organize people who are willing to help them.
• As you do these activities learn as much as you can about each person, sharing details about yourself as well.
• Eventually do full Asset Mapping

Starting with the Local Elementary School
Many churches have approached the problem of becoming known in the neighborhood by beginning NT through the local elementary school. This is especially effective in areas where most of the children walk to school.

Here are approaches to the schools which have been effective:
• Set up a meeting with the school principal asking how the neighborhood church members can serve the school. With budget cut backs most principals are willing to accept some help.
• Normally it can start with a school grounds beautification or painting a room. This kind of project allows Group 2 level church members to participate.
• It could involve supplying backpacks at start of the year. If so this it is great opportunity to ask that a parent help in the school once for 2 hours. Principals have found that if a parent comes to school there is an immediate increase in attention span in their child. Therefore, just getting the parents into the school is a positive.
• If Christmas gifts are provided for needy children put them in a school Christmas store where parents choose the gift they want for their child and pay some small amount. If the parents do not have the cash they can substitute a couple of hours as a volunteer in the store.
• Find out if the schools need volunteers to help and then provide members from Group 3 to come to help as volunteers.
• Some churches have done a “Love the Teacher Day” where they provide small gifts for them and perhaps a Starbuck coffee card.
• At some point send the nine-question Asset Mapping Questionnaire home with students. The class with most number of returned questionnaires wins a pizza party. In addition, the children who return their questionnaires get into a drawing for a nice gift.
• In the questionnaire look for what parents want to learn and set up different short classes at the schools taught by neighborhood people of local trainers from the church.

Hope this gives you some idea how to get started doing Neighborhood Transformation. Ways that are simpler and easier to get church members involved.

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