I am writing a new book and each month I am sending out an email on one chapter which you can download for free. I did the first chapter in June on Getting to know your Neighbors. This month the chapter is on Transforming a Neighborhood in your city.
If you want to learn more click below to download an article on How to Transform an Urban Neighborhood.
Are you interested in transforming a neighborhood in your city?
If so, choosing the appropriate size of neighborhood for your ministry target area is critical.
A neighborhood may be defined as a residential portion of a city that is identified as a geographic place historically by the city. All cities are divided into zones and neighborhoods. A neighborhood might have been recently constructed by a developer, or may be a district which has been around for a hundred years. Neighborhoods can be as large as 15,000 people made up of high density apartment complexes. Many single-family neighborhoods are 3,000 to 4,000 people.
Ministry is most effectively carried out in a small geographic area since the goal is to bring neighbors to meet and identify with each other. Thus, a good way to define a neighborhood is by the elementary school it serves, which is generally 6 to 10 square blocks. This school is in walking distance and can serve as a hub for ministry.
God is Involved in our Neighborhoods
A crucial premise for neighborhood ministry is to realize that God is active in our neighborhoods. Thus, from the beginning it is important to discover what God is up to in the world and what it means to be the church as we move back into the neighborhood. God has imparted gifts to the people of our churches. God has already gifted and called ordinary men and women in each of our churches to participate with the Holy Spirit to do ministry.
As we search for how God wants us to be involved in ministry we are well served by asking new questions. Our insights and habits can begin to be reshaped as we ask questions about God, ourselves, and our neighbors. What does it mean to be God’s people in a community? Does God intend to erase the boundary lines of who my neighbor is? When we ask questions in the light of God’s intent, our perspective goes beyond what is inside the church walls but becomes something entirely different.
A local church is called to be a mission oriented people. The reason churches are called into existence is for their members to become God’s missionaries right where they live. For too long local churches assumed that its mission was about getting people to come to them, joining their church in the process. God has a different plan for His people where a local church is shaped by what He is up to in the neighborhoods and communities outside the church’s walls.
Our communities are changing dramatically. They are changing from those homogenized neighborhoods where everyone looked the same. Our neighbors are now a part of the new pluralized, globalized world forming before our eyes. Neighborhoods are now characterized by multiple, competing value systems living side by side in the same community.
Globalization is creating new kinds of neighborhoods across the street and around the corner from where we live. This is the work of the Spirit. As God’s people, we’re being invited to join with the Spirit by “pitching our tent” beside the varieties of cultures living all around us. Our worlds are no longer separated by national and ethnic boundaries. Jesus’ disciples of today will be shaped by engaging their neighborhoods, asking what God is up to and joining God in these places.
If you want to learn more click below to download an article on how to Transform an Urban Neighborhood.
I heard Brenda Salter McNeil convincingly speak at the Christian Community Health Fellowship Conference in May 2016. She also wrote a great book Road-map to Reconciliation 2015, IVP Books Downers Grove, IL which I bought. Her whole approach is on Reconciliation primarily between races but also where you have opposing ideas and practice between two groups. I have written a couple lessons on, but not published yet. An approach to reconciliation between two groups which hold radically opposed positions which they guard to the core. The groups are so entrenched in their positions they reject out of hand what the group is saying.
The books outlines a five step process to reconciliation but after doing the lesson plan what she is saying applies to radical change which is what Neighborhood Transformation is all about. There is the much more traditional beliefs by Christians which separate them into two camps, those doing evangelism and those doing Justice with very few holding the Biblical basis of Jesus. It is both. Also Christians have a tendency to separate functions into the evangelists and the social workers with few understanding we must be doing both together being wholistic. Also we are paid to do the work and members who if work generally only inside the four walls of the church. We must take the position we are all called missionaries where we are now. We see many people who just keep doing things for people instead of empowering them to change what they want changed.
Change is the central issue for those involved in transformation for what they are trying to accomplish. All of the above needs a catalytic event to shake people out of their old ways of doing things, the status quo. They then need a process for moving from where they are to an entirely new position. So I am presenting a capsule view of her process asking could this be of help to you who are trying to see transformation take place
Starting Point for Change, A Catalytic, Shake it Up
There must be a Catalytic Event to shake them out of their self-preservation and isolation mode which is natural. We try to preserve the values and way of life that defines us. People have to come to the realization that things might have to change before things can get better. Generally coming to this point requires some catalytic event that moves us to begin to consider this option. This kind of event causes us to consider moving from the stagnation of life in a homogenous group. Acts 22 which gives us the catalytic event Saul went through to become Paul
Transformation requires disruption and a degree of chaos to increase the urgency that change must happen. This causes chaos which we must embrace. Disruption is absolutely necessary for the reconciliation process. A catalytic event will either push us forward toward transformation or tighten our tether to preservation. Catalytic events cause chaos and chaos is resisted by most people because they want to be in control.
A catalytic event sometimes happens when someone read the book Where Helping Hurts or Toxic Charity that both show most help really hurts people they have desired to help. Another example is when a person goes overseas for the first time and sees deep poverty and they are blown away. This causes them to rethink what they have been doing. It pulls them up short.
There are four other steps which a person or group must go through if there is to be a dramatic change in the way people think and act. I will share them with you in my next blog.
For transformation to take place people and neighborhoods must decide they want something different than what they currently have. Then they must care enough that they are willing to do something about it to see the change take place. If that desire and action are not there then no matter what we do for others might be good but generally transformation does not take place. Transformation comes from inside people themselves and neighborhoods.
But we as Western Christians are focused on doing things for others. People might say sure I would like that and gratefully accept whatever we do for them but does that transform them or their neighborhood? The answer is No.
There are three ways of helping people and neighborhoods
- Relief Doing Things for People. Provides assistance without addressing long term needs nor using assets found in the people or neighborhood
- Betterment or Mentoring Individuals to Change Things they Want Changed. Tend to create short term positive, caring beneficial environments and relationships that offer participants respite or positive experiences. It deals with what the person wants to change
- Transformation of Individuals and Neighborhoods That is wholistic and is sustainable focuses on measured changes in knowledge, skills abilities or conditions of the participants that when combined together sees their neighborhood transformed from the inside. It is multiplying as Jesus told his disciples to do in II Tim 2:2.
An Approach that Fosters Transformation
- It is a people-oriented, relationship building process.
- It is designed to identify assets within the neighborhood found in individuals, associations and institutions, and identifies which of those assets they are willing to share.
- Once the assets are identified, you begin to link the people you have been building relationships with, to the assets that would empower them.
- It is based on neighbors helping neighbors, not being dependent on professionals to do things for them.
- It is designed to build up internal and external abilities.
- It is designed to be sustainable.
- It is primarily a grass-root, bottom-up process which requires a person to act as a catalyst and facilitator.
- It is a gradual learning process progressing from the simple to the more complex and from the known to the unknown.
- It works primarily with individuals and households and then impacts the neighborhood as a whole
- It is greater than the sum of its parts.
- It requires a moral and ethical focus for relationships to grow, which results from establishing trust.
- These ethical values are based on absolutes that do not change, but are the same year-after- year. This is based on God’s Word, the Bible.
There is a place for doing all three but we find most groups are doing relief which fosters dependency What are you doing in your ministry Relief, Betterment or Transformation? Make up a worksheet you can see what your church or organization is doing. Itr will have the following headings
Worksheet for Existing Community Ministry
||How Church Assists
(Financial, Church Member on Own, Provides Volunteers)