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Like any kind of "community engagement" activity - determine if it's wanted by the community, if there is someone or organization you can partner with and how it will be sustained.  We have something in many of our communities -  public libraries! - which are major community building places with way more resources than books.  Often their funding is being cut each year and they lack enough volunteers to provide all the services they want. How can a church support them with volunteers and resources or help them make the little free library an extension of themselves? I encourage you to read this article for the pros and cons of these libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/01/02/question-little-free-libraries/

Many times the little libraries are located in wealthy communities that have plenty of access to books (I think I counted 20+ in one East Grand Rapids neighborhood the last time I visited), without attention they can turn into eye sores, and they often lack the variety of books that might be of interest to that community. 

Yes, these little structures are cute but are they serving the intended purpose? Our good ideas can be made better with partnership, community-driven, and sustainable approaches. Find out if neighbors want this, if it already exists and how can you build on it, or other alternatives for the purpose of encouraging reading and engaging. Other ideas could be a book swap between neighbors? A neighborhood book reading and discussion? A contest to see how many books kids (and adults!) can read and give out prizes at the end of the summer (many libraries do this too and would love to see churches help kids read!)? Or a children's book club or evening reading hour? Promoting a great resources like the local library is always a win! And if you don't have a local library -  is having access to good books something your community could rally around together? 

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!

In developing the essentials, hope they include what ALL of us and deacons will find "essential" in benevolence, community transformation, justice, stewardship. Things like - shifting our mindset from needs to Strengths, what it means to be focused on our community, importance of listening, understanding history and injustice.  There are great examples of social workers working and using their gifts in churches. As a MSW I found it extremely helpful in my role as Pastor of Community Restoration. It would be great to look at new model for ministry as would a discussion about what "terms" mean.

Ed - I love this!! I've been a part of gardening and community gardens for years and one of the most amazing things is the connections I make with people while sharing food. One of the churches I was a Community pastor for worked with a community coalition to start community garden initiatives throughout their city - first as scattered site raised beds located primarily at places like schools, day cares, Sr. Centers, low income housing. Then we worked together to open up a Coalition led community garden, with the "requirement" that each person give 10% or more of what they grew to fight local food insecurity through the Healthy Food pantry. It was great to see the church walk alongside it's community, be a partner rather than control it, and meet people where they were at. 

Thank you Carol. I've been trying to practice the circle of Lamenting, Listening, Learning, Living. Listening along with you. Let's keep at it together!!

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!

 

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