Communities First Association has created a trove of stories that inspire, teach, and model congregational engagement with community. But not just any kind of engagement! CFA, like most community development resourcers, has learned the hard way that good intentions aren't enough. And so they have taken pains to discover how to minimize negative side effects of "doing good". And, obviously, to maximize the likelihood that the desired outcomes will actually happen, and will be sustainable.
This is a kind of disciplined and responsible community engagement that more churches need to learn about. If you are like me, and if your church is like mine, you know how easy it is to "help" somebody, only to discover that what you REALLY did was encourage dependency, or re-enforce a bad habit, or create a new problem to be solved.
Helping people in ways that are truly "helpful" takes a bit of thought, and lots of discipline and persistence. Community development is not for the faint of heart. I'm pretty sure it can't be done well without relationships of integrity - that is, relationships that are genuine, equal, appreciative, open, vulnerable, and all the rest. The people whom I'm trying to help have been "helped" before; they are pretty sophisticated. They can smell my paternalism a mile away. I might have something they want, but it's not about a relationship that induces healthy change and growth in both of us.
Learning to "see" a person and a community with the eyes of a developer takes a bit of practice. It requires sorting out some old assumptions and generalizations, and learning to asking a different kind of question. Discovering what needs doing and who needs to do it, is NOT about my analysis of the problem. It's about OUR journey together learning to trust, learning to appreciate, learning to discover, learning to celebrate.
When deacons set out to engage the community, you can be sure it'll be an adventure! CFA can help make it a great one!
Browse their stories and get a fresh vision! They'll put you on to lots of good resources, networks, techniques, training, and consultants. And they have KINGDOM PERSPECTIVE!