FCS has a mantra on the walls of our office – “We can do hard things.” This is there because just about everything we do is profoundly difficult. And it is challenging because the systems and structure were built to create the conditions we are trying to reverse. In our previous episode, we made the case of doing economic development at the scale of the neighborhood – being of, with, and for the neighborhood. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how it does work, we felt it honest and important to start with how it *doesn’t work. There are sizeable barriers that you will face if you choose to join us on the path of holistic neighborhood development.
FCS has chosen to work in historically Black and brown neighborhoods that are experiencing the concentrated forces of inequity. All too often, deliberately disadvantaged neighborhoods, get blamed for the conditions that are out of their control. And, at the same time, the solutions being devised don’t include them either. This is painfully obvious when we look at the way our cities think about economic development. Most of the systems and strategies we are using are creating problems, not solving them. FCS advocates that ending inequity and promoting prosperity means getting our economic scales adjusted to the unit of the neighborhood. What might it mean to change the paradigm and begin the pursuit and practice of neighborhood economics?
In this special series of Place Matters, we have been exploring the relationship of congregations to their local context. We have made the case that, for churches, place should matter too. Any understanding of a thriving congregation is incomplete if it does not include caring well for our neighbors and neighborhood. We partnered with the Barna Group to put some data behind this.
For this conversation to have any credibility, of course, we must engage a more inclusive and representative audience of leaders. So, we have been talking to our friend, the Rev Dr. Alvin Sanders, President and CEO of World Impact, about some similar research he and his team have done with Barna to engage Black and brown pastors who are serving in lower-income, majority-minority neighborhoods.
World Impact is an organization that exists specifically to offer training and equipping for church leaders working in lower-income, urban communities. So what did Alvin and his team discover when they asked about the role of congregations in the neighborhood? Are there signs of hope here? And if so, what can majority culture churches learn to close the church-to-neighborhood gap?