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Community Faith-based Organizing and Development

 

Borgman, Dean, (2006) “Community Faith-based Organizing and Development,”  Center for Youth Studies.

 

OVERVIEW

  

With its emphasis on community outreach, empowerment and social justice, it should be easy to see the important role of a community church or ministry in community organizing and development. Churches need to get outside their parochial walls to collaborate with other players at the table. These potential collaborators include:
 

                • other churches

                • other faiths
                • secular organizations and agencies
                • government resources

 

Churches have a “spiritual” agenda. But they can only be faithful to the biblical mandate for God’s people to pray and work for the peace and justice of the secular city as they become involved outside their walls (see Jeremiah 29: 5-10, especially v. 7). Churches must serve the community and must cooperate with all who can help do God’s will for the community.

 

 

The idea of church involvement and initiative, charitable choice, and faith-based community development emerged in the 1990s (clearly, many churches and faith-based organizations had been working with the poor for centuries).  In the March-April 2000 issue of Sojourners magazine, Helen Slessarev wrote an article, “Saul Alinsky Goes to Church: Faith-based community organizing is taking off—with benefits for both community and church.” In this article she says, “the only way to build long-term power is by ORGANIZING PEOPLE AND MONEY around A COMMON VISION.” Some cities are far beyond others in developing a collaborative metropolitan strategy—and the follow-through needed to see such a strategy succeed.

 

 

A greater challenge is to move urban churches out of what often seems like a spiritual cocoon and to encourage pastors to relinquish some power and status within the church to cooperate with others. Of course, theological resistance may also be present. Churches need a broader biblical theology stressing social responsibility, as stated in Slessarev’s article above, “Churches that engage in community organizing recognize that SIN IS NOT JUST PERSONAL, but social and economic as well.” Such realization and new community strategies are happening around the world in this first decade of the 21st century.
               

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTIONS & DISCUSSION

 

1.     Why are you interested in this article? How important to you is its subject and why?

2.     What most impresses you here or what most disturbs you? What criticisms or suggestions would you offer?

3.     How do you see the relationship of youth ministry, the church, and the community?

4.     Do you agree that a theology of social justice is important as a foundation for a church’s vision of community involvement? How would you express your theology of social justice (you could also add economic and environmental here as well)?

5.     Where do you see your church in terms of community involvement and social justice issues?

6.     What questions does this article raise for you, and where do you want to go from here?

 

IMPLICATIONS

 

1.     If youth ministry is to be holistic, it must be involved in families, the community, and schools.

 

2.     If the Gospel and Church are to be relevant, they must be involved in community and society.

 

D. Borgman cCYS