MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY AND THE USE OF COMMUNITY ASSETS

On this sacred day in honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I find myself reflecting on the work of the church I served for many years, the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw MI.   This is a church that affirmed the use of church ASSETS in helping to restoring health and stability in the neighborhood around the church.  This work is consistent with the work of Dr. King in identifying and then using our God given gifts for the benefit of others.

I recall in the mid 1990’s hosting a community meeting in the church gym.  Present at this meeting were St. Mary’s Hospital executives, an ABCD Institute representative (Asset Based Communityh Development) along with neighborhood stakeholders.  This was a turning point for the church in affirming one of our greatest ASSETS was in becoming an active/engaged anchor in the neighborhood.  Next to her people, the church building is the most valuable and visible of assets of the church in the community.   Rent-free space has been offered numerous organizations through the years.  These organizations include the East Side Soup Kitchen; Hidden Harvest;  the Mark Neumeier Youth  Center and Women of Color’s Inc.  This sharing of church assets was made possible in because of this positive, asset-based approach in matching needs with assets.  You can read more about this type of community development at http://www.abcdinstitute.org/

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) is at the center of a large and growing movement that considers local assets as the primary building blocks of sustainable community development. Building on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, asset-based community development draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute is located at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. ABCD has a staff of three individuals, including the founders, John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann.

A book written by Cameron E. Harder, Discovering the Other: Asset-Based Approaches for Building Community Together, asks:

What is God’s mission? Simply put, says theologian and field educator Cameron Harder, God’s mission is to form communities that reflect and embody the life of the Trinity. Discovering the Other is an introduction to two tools that community builders have found helpful: appreciative inquiry and asset mapping. These tools help congregations see that all of life is saturated by the sacred and give them energy to begin living as if it were so. Instead of asking, ‘What’s wrong?’ appreciative inquiry asks, ‘What’s right?’ Asset mapping asks, ‘What resources do you have personally that we could bring to our future together?’ Out of these questions can arise a sense that every congregation is rich in history, people, and resources. Ideas emerge as people, inspired by the Spirit, listen and talk to each other. The leader’s task is to facilitate, coalesce, and connect ideas, to catalyze and stimulate the development of vision. The creative connections lead to programs and projects that will enrich your congregation’s mission. But most importantly, in the process they will engage you with others, with their stories, their hopes, their gifts – to build community. This book looks for God, not only through the lens of such tools, but in the tools themselves. It is an effort to understand how processes like appreciative inquiry and asset mapping reflect the character and community-building style of the God whom Christians worship as Divine community.

In celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let’s take a close look at our Assets.  Let’s use what God has entrusted our care in building/sustaining healthy communities.

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