Recently, Lupton Center trainer and consultant David Park had the privilege to interview Dr. Dave Kresta to discuss community development. Kresta holds a Ph.D. in Urban Studies and is an adjunct assistant professor at Portland State University. In this interview, they discuss Kresta’s book, Jesus on Main Street: Good News Through Community Economic Development, evaluating the economic role of churches in neighborhood development regarding gentrification, poverty, segregation, and affordable housing. Here are three considerations as churches seek new ways forward.
Community Development Must Have a High-Level View
Community development is an umbrella term, and Kresta describes it with a holistic view of the health, voice, and activities of a community. A community development organization seeks to address the needs of individuals, but also extends outward to include the broader community and local institutions. It must have a high-level view.
Economic Development Plays a Significant Role in Communities
Economic development primarily focuses on the economic and growth factors that may contribute to a community’s development. These are elements that shift the economic landscape of a community. While economic development is not the only factor to consider for a healthy community, it is a primary focus throughout Kresta’s book on the intersection of the Church and a community’s economic development.
Healthy Economic Develop Must Prioritize the Greater Community Needs
Perhaps the most typical approach to creating economic and community development is traditional economic development. Kresta notes that projects such as freeway expansions, sports venues, new corporations, industrial complexes, and large-scale developments raise the economic health of the community. Unfortunately, they only benefit a small subset of the community: those with capital and those able to take advantage. Rarely do the benefits extend to the poor and marginalized.
In fact, these populations often experience negative repercussions from these processes. For example, the interstate highway system funded by the federal government created greater nationwide mobility, but the new roads often cut through neighborhoods of color, effectively destroying entire communities.
Kresta dives into a critique of the traditional models used by businesses and churches. He and Park later emphasize that adapting your approach toward economic development that prioritizes the needs of the greater community will foster community development.
What Can We Do
How can churches and organizations go beyond traditional models? The good news is everyone has a part to play. This conversation (and Kresta’s book) are perfect for church planters and church leaders eager to investigate the roles they play in their community.
Kresta suggests adopting a de-centered church posture. This shift may look like taking one of several positions: a participant, an enabler, and an educator. There is always someone to listen to, something to learn, and something to do. Each step taken is unique, and the journey does not end once each is completed.