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Share away!! I think it could be a great conversation starter for Sunday Schools, Churches, Schools - helping us to think about how and why we give. And I'm always available to bounce ideas off of!

 

Thanks John!  So good to see your name. I'm planning on hosting a series of conversations/webinars starting early December about different "diaconal" topics including ways churches give/serve with justice, and DMC always has great stuff. Look for the information on The Network. You're right - we need to keep talking!

Yes Mark, thanks for that response. Gift cards are so much more empowering. The store when run by people from the community, became a community-led effort and community-focused, not church-led and church-centric. In whatever we do, how are we breaking down the server vs. served mentality? How are the things we do moving towards community-led efforts? Are we trying to control things? And why? We need to keep asking ourselves hard questions as we plan what on the surface seem like helpful things.

Thanks Erin. I think that challenging ourselves and churches to think more about what truly changes communities and lives gives the impression that the church is in solidarity with those facing poverty.  I think it challenges those creating the easy projects to help their constituents engage poverty more justly and to take a longer term view.  I think it shows that rather imposing "our idea" of Christmas or helping ON people, we really want to listen and learn FROM them. Although I wasn't speaking in particular to "shoebox program", it is an example of something that I think needs to be examined a lot more closely. Found this quote helpful: "In the end, when churches and faith communities reconcile with the fact that engaging poverty will be extremely difficult and possibly not produce any immediate visible results.....they must finally be willing to leave their bubble, especially the one created by...charity projects like it. If they can leave that bubble....they can always find people and organizations that are truly engaging poverty and building relationships that empower communities in need." See article by Blake Tommey, Stuffing shoe boxes for the world's poor? Maybe you should reconsider, Baptist News Global) I think the impression it leaves is that we care more deeply when we take the time to challenge our ways of thinking. I want to keep learning.

Thank you all for thoughtful discussion.

Absolutely agree to the call of the church (and individual Christ followers) to tell the good news and show the good news. I hesitate to say that they are so distinct. I believe we are called to a more integral and holistic approach to God's mission. Is not a Christ-centered missional life a weaving together of doing and saying, acting and thinking? In my community development work with churches, schools and community organizations some of the best opportunities for healing physically, emotionally and spiritually came from working alongside our community. The mercy and justice that was done, even without "gospel proclamation", led to health, wholeness, and beauty, as well as more opportunities for sharing the story. God is doing amazing things in our communities and provides us opportunities to join in. I wonder what would happen if we and our churches often asked these questions: why have I been placed in this community, what does God intend for this community, how is he already using the gifts of the community, what restoration work is needed in this community, and how can we join in?  God desires people and communities to flourish, and we fall short in our mission when we aren't working towards justice and restoration of the whole person or community. I hope more and more churches feel called to engage in their communities and share that transforming love and life of Jesus.

What a thoughtful idea Bill. I've seen thank you signs on lawns, thank you parades, or some people are writing thank you notes or providing a gift card thank you. I wonder if even just asking them how they need to be supported would be a way to thank them. Maybe they need someone to deliver groceries or give them ideas of fun things to do with their kids.  I also wonder if knowing their schedule and making sure someone is praying for them while they work would be an encouragement to them. Knowing who these workers are in your neighborhood would be a great way to encourage our neighbors as well. 

Great thoughts August. The word "community" can be hard to define. Geographically, in a city, I'd define it as the neighborhood of the church. If no one from the church is a member there, all the more reason to work with residents of the neighborhood and the other local churches in the neighborhood for the transformation of that neighborhood. (examples: Salem OR Church as Neighborhood centers initiative, San Antonio TX Faith based initiative brings together many churches) I believe that a church body has a responsibility to be a good neighbor and make visible the kingdom in the specific place that it is located. Each member of that church also is called to be good neighbors where they live, work and play. There are lots of ways of discovering how to do that. But you are right, church members living elsewhere in the city can also work for the transformation of their individual neighborhoods, being a great neighbor and supporting the work of the local churches/organizations and institutions where they live, I just think we overlook the responsibility churches have to their particular neighborhoods and neighbors. So I think it's both and. And great idea - another discussion on how to do this well. Let me know if you'd like some resources. Hope you join in more discussions - you sound like you have great ideas!

Yes these are examples. Not sure what Classis you are part of, but you are right, there are some Diaconal conferences and coordinators still in place in the United States, but there used to be more. Canada has Diaconal Ministries Canada that helps facilitate diaconal work.  I'm hoping to get more churches in the United States networking about diaconal work, particularly as they work with their community. I'm also thinking beyond denomination. Are local churches working with each other for the transformation of their local community or neighborhood -  beyond banding together for food baskets and clothing drives? Here are two examples: The Boston Project - https://www.tbpm.org/community/tnt-neighbors-united/, Spring TX - https://www.otshca.org/) Let me know if you want to connect about church with community or diaconal work. Value your input!

Donna - so glad you found this and asked the question. You are right on! We are called to our church's neighborhood as well. It's right in the Deacon Ordination at least two times ("identify and develop gifts in both the church and community", "minister...both within and outside the church"). There are a lot of resources to share about this, including training for deacons, a cohort on Becoming a Community Focused church, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) resources. I would love to walk alongside you (AND ANY OTHERS!) interested in learning from and with one another. Here's a short book that help us to think about our community: Congregations, Neighborhoods, Places, by Mark Mulder. You can sign up to receive the recordings of a webinar series I facilitated called Welcome to the Neighbourhood - Sign up here: https://worldrenew.net/uncategorized/welcome-to-the-neighbourhood.  There is another about poverty (with Mark Mulder) that is very helpful. I'd love to know more about your church and neighborhood - contact me at [email protected] and we can find a time to chat!

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