Tag Archives: betterment

Transformation Requires More Then Doing Things for People and Neighborhoods

For transformation to take place people and neighborhoods must decide they want something different then 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.
  • Transformation of Individuals and Neighborhoods That is Wholistic and is Sustainable It s focus on measured changes in knowledge, skills abilities or conditions of the participants that  when combined together sees their neighborhood transformed from the inside

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.

Examples of Improved Ways to Do things For Others

I will be writing several blogs on examples of activities that build peoples self esteem or move them forward to beginning to do things for themselves through the coaching of others.

Christmas Gift Store
Many churches use an Angel Tree approach for Christmas gifts for poor children. But instead of doing it that way they cam up with a different version then above of a Christmas Store, Churches members still bought gifts for kids but they are delivered as an unwrapped gifts to a location in the neighborhood where the poor came to choose Christmas gifts for their kids. The prices are set at about 10% of retail value so the prices are low. The store is someplace in the neighborhood, in a church in the neighborhood or in the elementary school

The parent picks gifts they think their child would like and takes it home to wrap it and give it to their child at Christmas. Sometimes instead of paying cash a person agrees to work in the store for say two hours for each gift. Therefore even if the parent has no funds they can choose, wrap and deliver gifts to their kids. Imagine the difference in how a parent feels by being able to be the giver of that gift to their child

Back Pack Give A Way
A church in Colorado donates backpacks full of supplies at the beginning of the year for families who cannot afford them. This year, the school Family Resource Center set up a “Time and Talent” program for these backpacks. Every family that accepted a backpack agreed to give two hours of their time back to school in some form of volunteer work. Schools know that if they can get a parent to the school for a positive experience the learning and attention of their child improves. As of January, 100% of the parents had completed this commitment. Parents dignity and feelings of self worth is strengthened as they have been able to provide for their child’s school supply needs instead of being dependent on others.

Those Served Become Servers at a Church Soup Kitchen
New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church is located in Over the Rhine, a community just outside downtown Cincinnati. New Prospect serves a mostly African-American population in a neighborhood that has been left behind. Many of Cincinnati’s homeless live in Over the Rhine, and for many years New Prospect has attended to their nutritional needs through a soup kitchen in the church basement. Several years ago, a group of ministers and lay leaders in the New Prospect congregation decided to re¬examine the church’s relationship with the people it was “serving” in its soup kitchen.

The congregation designed a “Gift Interview,” of assets to explore the unknown talents of the people coming to the soup kitchen. They asked questions about the gifts and abilities people were born with; they asked about skills and the things people liked to do. They also asked about dreams and provided an opportunity for each person to express what they would do if they “could snap their fingers and be doing anything.”

What they found astonished them: here were carpenters, plumbers, artists, musicians, teachers, and caregivers, all coming to the soup kitchen at New Prospect. Here were gifted and talented people, people with dreams, and people with things to contribute. As the interviews proceeded, the people being fed blossomed as they realized they had something to contribute. As the pastor said, “Folks were telling us, ‘We don’t want to stay over here on the receiving side of the table. We’re not just recipients. We want to cross over to your side of the table, the blessing side of the table. We want to cook and serve, too. We want to belong by contributing.”‘

More and more, the original soup kitchen recipients served the food and those who had once been servers, accepted the role of recipient. They received food and sat at the tables developing relationships with those they ate with. When everyone involved in the soup kitchen could function as a server and a recipient of the gift of food, the power once associated with being the server disappeared and real reciprocal relationships began to blossom.

Second installment of Using the School to Start Neighborhood Transformation

Written by Brynn Schmidt, Co-leader of the Neighborhood Transformation team at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colorado.

At Flatiron we have also worked with the elementary school to establish a strong relationship with another organization that our church partners with, the Sister Carmen Community Center. We will begin to work on more projects together next year, as many of the families already use the services or are in need of what the center has to offer. From the Sister Carmen website, “Our services include assistance with food, rent, utilities, transportation, medical care and other basic needs. We also work one on one with individuals and families to assist them in their efforts to reach self sufficiency.” Right now, we are all partnering together to provide snacks for the kindergarten classes on a weekly basis. We are working on ideas to have “weekend food backpacks” as well for next year, where kids can take home food for the weekend, and in return the families can commit to the “Time and Talent” program.

A deeper commitment that some people on our team have made revolves around teaching and helping out with the after school programs. We have had people volunteer and teach English to Spanish speaking parents, and this is a huge time commitment. It is an amazing way to get to know parents and people within the community. We also have a few people that volunteer with the after school program that runs every day. They are working directly for the coordinator of the program, and volunteer on a weekly or monthly basis. The school would love to have some consistent adults that could come every afternoon, but we have not been able to find anyone yet who can do that. We are hoping to get more of our team and church involved with this as it is really open to whatever time people can give, as long as it is on a consistent basis.

We look for people who can teach art, music, homework help, dance, etc. and ask them to just commit to a 4-6 week class period. We have had a couple of people do this, and this is an area we hope to develop much more next year. The coordinator left mid-year and was not in good contact with our volunteers, so we have had to re-start our efforts here. The new director of the program is great and we think that things will go really smoothly next year as we set up some after school classes and more tutoring programs.

We have several other programs/projects that we work on together, and one last project that I would like to share is a unique opportunity for our team. It is the college t-shirt drive. Most of these kids never think about the possibility of attending college. Since one of the most defining statistics for college is that children develop habits of attending school daily; we are trying to encourage them to start thinking about college as a possibility.

It has been an amazing year, with at least 60-70% of the children receiving the school award at least once. We are giving every student in the school a college t-shirt with a diploma type document encouraging them to dream about college based on the success they have had this year.

Our NT team (which is now about 30+ people strong) is collecting t-shirts from friends, community groups, second hand stores and purchasing them for this to happen. We need 385 shirts by May, and we already have over 250. With God’s provision, we are on our way for this to happen at the last assembly of the year.

We continue to move forward and look to the next steps that we can take regarding the Neighborhood Transformation plan. After talking with Stan last month, I believe our next step will start in the fall of 2011. We will work with the staff and determine if we can progress to individual/family asset mapping. This will be our first step in moving from the school out into the community.

The idea is that we can send home questionnaires with the kids to get information from the parents on what is working and not working in their community, and how their assets can contribute to a better community. Stan gave me some ideas on how to approach this and how to get a good response from families. I plan to work through this with our community pastor, NT co-leader, principal and family resource coordinator. From there, we hope to create some neighborhood meetings to move forward.

It has been such a blessing to be welcomed into this school. There is so much more that I could share – especially about how much this school has impacted me personally and changed my life. I am learning so much about serving in my own backyard, but in a completely different setting. There are so many life situations that we do not even think about that affect families in poverty so severely.

One example that comes to mind is that the school has a very hard time with behavioral issues the week before any vacation. This is because school vacations for many of these kids are full of uncertainty, parents working instead of being home, and not enough food to eat because they are usually fed two meals a day at school. While in my home we look forward to these breaks from school to have fun together as family; I had never considered what it was like for children in poverty over the school breaks. I feel that I am a very compassionate person and that I understand a lot about poverty, but there is so much I have not yet learned from books, seminars and even world travel.

These things can only be learned by serving Christ in our own communities and learning about people in different circumstances – and loving all people the way that Jesus would. I still have so much to learn from these amazing children and their families and I am looking forward to what God has in store for these relationships that have been built between our church and community.

Identifying Assets

As follow-on to a Blog I wrote a couple weeks ago on Assets we want to follow on with how to identify assets in a neighborhood.

Communities can no longer be thought of as complex masses of needs and problems, but rather diverse and potent webs of gifts and assets. Each community has a unique set of skills and capacities to channel for community development. ABCD categorizes asset inventories into five groups:
Individuals: At the center of the approach are residents of the community that have gifts and skills. Everyone has assets and gifts. Individual gifts and assets need to be recognized and identified. In community development you cannot do anything with people’s needs, only their assets. Deficits or needs are only useful to institutions.
Associations: Small informal groups of people, such as clubs, working with a common interest as volunteers are called associations and are critical to community mobilization. They don’t control anything; they are just coming together around a common interest by their individual choice.
Institutions: Paid groups of people who generally are professionals who are structurally organized are called institutions. They include government agencies and private business, as well as schools, etc. They can all be valuable resources. The assets of these institutions help the community capture valuable resources and establish a sense of civic responsibility.

Individual Assets
The most important assets are found in the people in the neighborhood. The assets are found by asking a series of questions that gets people talking and sharing about themselves. They are:
• What do you like about your neighborhood?
• What would you like to see different in your neighborhood?
• What groups are you involved in, within your neighborhood?
• What do you like to do:
o With your hands
o What do you feel passionate about
o What knowledge do you have that you might be willing to share with others
• What would you like to learn if training were available in your neighborhood?
• How can we pray for you?
Persons Name and Address_______________________

Associations and Institutions
While associations and institutions are both important to ABCD, they are different. Consider the following comparison of the characteristics of institutions and associations:

How Governed: Power by consent
How Decisions Made: Choice of members
Who Designed: Designed for and by each other
Who Decides What To Do: Members
Who Runs: Citizen volunteers
Who Are Beneficiaries: Citizen members
Function: Freedom
What Drives: Capacity of members
Amount of Control: Very little

How Governed: Controlled environment
How Decisions Made: Involuntary; powered by $
Who Designed: Designed for production
Who Decides What to Do: Needs a client or customer
Who Runs: Service/ not a servant
Who are the Beneficiaries: Consumer/client
Function: Produces services
What Drives: Drive to meet need
Amount of Control: Tight hierarchical control

Example Associations: Civic Events, Fitness Groups, Block Watch, Ethnic Associations, Church neighborhood groups

Example Institutions: Police & Fire Departments, Schools, Non-Profit Agencies, Clinics, Churches, Libraries

The gifts of institutions are important, but they must be steered in support of what the citizens want and need, not what the institution wants and needs. Typically poor communities are inundated with social service organizations that exist to do a particular job or provide a particular service, but they need a client. In regard to which does really work with it is the associations because they represent the neighborhood people not institutions which are mae up of professionals.

In the past community developers were taught to do Mapping of Needs which has four disadvantages:
• The emphasis is on professional helpers who are the primary identifiers of needs and providers of solutions.
• Using a Needs Map fragments the community because it breaks the community up based on professionally determined categories because professionals are specialists instead of generalists.
• Both citizens and service providers often internalize the needs map as negative truths about the community thereby becoming a self fulfilling prophesy.
• People who are good at describing their community as broken often get promoted as leaders by outsiders.

While doing asset mapping starts with counting up what is there, identifying what the community already has that can contribute to solving problems and realizing goals. Who and what do we have and what can they do? Key principals are:
• People in every community care about something that they are willing to do something about
• Discover assets by building relationships
• Keep citizens at the center
• Mobilizing the building blocks (assets) of the community

Therefore if you want to see transformation focus on assets and possibilities not needs or problems.


I have been facilitating the Multiplying Light and Truth On-line Book Study for the last two weeks with about 14 participants from varied backgrounds. It is going well. Participants read two chapters of my book and then go on-line to view a video role play and answer several questions with their answers automatically being sent to all participants for their comments.

A key item this week is the difference between relief, betterment and development which some participants admit that they have a problem identifying the differences. This is critical if we are to implement a CHE or Neighborhood Transformation ministry. If we do not understand the difference then we will definitely have problems in empowering others to help themselves. The River Crossing story told in the book and shown as the video really represents the differences.

When a person is carried on another person’s back which demonstrates Relief. Many times those carried get left in the middle of the river when the carrier gets tired. They are stuck there and cannot get off. In a church this is represented by food and clothes give away programs. It is doing things for people.

When a person is taught how to cross the river with instructions, modeling, coaching and encouragement this represents betterment. In a church setting this could be demonstrated by tutoring children. This is helping them improve their life by coming alongside them.

Development is when the person taught how to cross on their own goes back and teaches the person on the island how to get off. They teach the same way that they were taught. This is represented by 2 Timothy 2:2. Too many times we only think of this verse for spiritual things but it applies in all areas of our wholistic approach to ministry. This is where the person taught empowers others to do the same.

We have a chart which compares the three which you can see by going to our web site under Articles and find Comparison of Relief, Betterment and Development: