Assets Based Community Development...

You do not have to look far in contemporary “church-world” to encounter anxiety about the decline in the Western Church. Social-media, news sources, blogs, and magazines are filled with stories of how the Church is dying. This is also a very popular topic in the Christian book industry; an amazon.com book search with the phrase “the declining church” renders 55 pages of results. Each of these books agree that the Church is struggling to overcome the challenges of our postmodern world, though they do not agree on what the challenges actually are or how to get a handle on them. With so many problems and so many possible answers, it is no wonder that so many local congregations have turned to outside help in the form of professional consultants. Historically the majority of consultants have been concerned explicitly with church growth (specifically congregation size), but there has been a movement among many of these consultants shifting toward health rather than growth.

Assets based community development (ABCD) is a development strategy which draws on the strengths and assets already available to the community to deal with the community’s challenges, rather than attempting to import a solution. This developmental model values sustainability, as well as productivity, and has been growing in popularity since it debuted in 1993.[1] Consultants who implement the ABCD model see the local church as a community that can be developed based on the assets and gifts that it already has. ABCD consultants aim to make the local church (especially healthy churches) one of the greatest assets the broader community has at its disposal.

-EIRO-

EIRO, founded in 2013, is a non-profit firm doing this type of work with local churches. EIRO takes its name from the English transliteration of the Greek Εἴρω meaning “to join or tie together into a whole.” This is a fitting name for a firm that works inside the ABCD school of thought. EIRO is concerned with how churches do ministry (inreach and outreach) in their respective contexts. They explain how they go about this work saying: “Our model utilizes the gifts within congregations and their communities to work together for everyone's best interest. Building networks of relationships and trust, EIRO helps congregations connect with their community authentically.” EIRO seeks to train churches to see what God is already doing in them and their community and to then build on that. This sort of work changes the internal narrative that the church tells/believes about itself, from one of decline, as the churches that seek out consulting firms tend to already believe something is wrong, to one of promise and calling.[2]

-Vibrant Faith Ministries-

Vibrant Faith Ministries is another Church consulting and coaching firm that has embraced the ABCD movement. This multi-faceted organization focuses on the strengths and assets already present in the congregations they coach and consult. Explaining their process they say, “We are strengths-based, recognizing and building upon the assets and strengths of the individuals and congregations we coach.” Their philosophy is that each individual church already has everything they need to succeed, so when a church feels that it is struggling, the role of the consultant/coach is to reorient the congregation and the leaders towards the gifts and assets that God has already placed in their midst. Vibrant Faith also believes that the Holy Spirit is at work in every congregation, and that often when a church is struggling with anxiety, there is something blinding that congregation, keeping them from seeing the movement of the Spirit. Their role in this situation is to help the congregation notice the good that the Spirit is already doing in their community and where the Spirit is at work in their context.[3] One of their major focuses is the establishment of vision and mission statements that are accurate and useful. These statements will orient the communities and congregations, guiding them where the Spirit is already leading. So once they have evaluated a community, discovered its assets and strengths, as well as discerning where the Spirit is already at work, they help the church craft a vision and mission to help the congregation and leadership focus in on what they already have rather than looking outside for a magical “silver bullet” fix.

-Focusing The Church-

Both of these historical movements, the Council of Nicea and the development and implementation of Assets Based Community Development, have yielded products that have aided in focusing the Church. The Council of Nicea created the Nicene Creed which grounded the Church, giving it a clear heading for future theological developments, and nailing down its Incarnational theory of the Hyper-Static-Union and Trinitarian Theology. In a more practical sense, the development of ABCD towards the end of the twentieth century has helped the Church reorient its values and identity in the postmodern world, as the culture, which has always favored the Church, gives way to something new. With focused vision the Church will move with confidence and courage, rather than anxiety and fear.

[1] Mathie, Alison, and Gord Cunningham. "From Clients to Citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a Strategy for Community-driven Development." Development in Practice 13, no. 4 (January 2003): 474-86, 2.

[2] joineiro.com

[3] https://www.vibrantfaith.org/coaching/process/


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