GUEST BLOG: Asset Based Community Development in Scripture

Thanks to my fellow ABCD explorer Leigh Wilson of Northern Communities of Hope for this post.  

ImageI love being able to share this blog space with fellow dreamers.  I love learning from your experiences and wisdom as I wrestle with the hopes and limits of community development.

Leigh emailed me some initial thoughts of where we can see strength based community work in Scriptures which of course I found interesting and asked if he would be willing to expand on his thoughts here for us all to share in.

Everything old is new again – principles of ABCD in the Bible.
by Leigh Wilson

Asset Based Community Development is a counter to the usual approach of conducting a “Needs Assessment” in any given situation. Rather than concentrate on the needs, the ABCD approach encourages us to discover what knowledge, interests, skills and understanding people have about their situation. By involving them at their point of interest, we more easily gain their enthusiasm and commitment – precious commodities in any project!

Perhaps this is best summed up by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert:

“Do not do things for people that they can do for themselves”

It is easier said than done for many of us who need to be needed.

Below are 5 examples from the Bible of when a community leaders harnessed the assets of the community itself to meet a challenging situation:


My favourite Biblical example of working from a communities Assets is the construction of the Sacred Tent in Exodus 35, where the children of Israel are on trek to the Promised Land. Moses invites the people:

“from what you have…… bring gold…fine linen…acacia wood… and onyx stones and other gems.”
Exodus 35:4-9

Without realising it, they were carrying with them all that was needed for the construction of the Sacred Tent!  They just needed to take an inventory of their assets!

Moses appoints artisans Bezalel and Oholiab and

“every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing”
Exodus 35:30-36:1

And through so doing he realised that the harnessing of assets brings with it the priceless commodity of enthusiastic participation


Community participation is so important.  As Moses leads the people towards the Promised Land, his father in law Jethro visits him, and is horrified by what he sees:

“You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you….you can’t do this alone.” (Message translation),

…so he offers the wisdom of his years. (Exodus 18:13-26)

People often have more to offer than has been expected of them when given the opportunity.


Elijah  has already reached the “burn out” stage. Who wouldn’t when you read of all he has done and endured! (1 Kings 18).  Exhausted and depressed, he pours his heart out to God, (1 Kings 19:10-16), Who replies in effect, “I have news for you – there are many folk still true to me”   … in other words, your community has many assets where you are only seeing needs!

It’s an occupational hazard (and hugely arrogant) to think “I am called… I must do it ….no one else is able or willing”.


Later, when God’s people return from captivity, Nehemiah leads them in rebuilding the city walls. The task completed, Ezra shares God’s Word with them. There is no way he can answer all their questions, so he delegates the task. (Nehemiah 8: 1-8)

It is an occupational hazard for leaders to delegate, yet when we do, we find many capable people!


The clearest example of the contrast between “needs” and “assets” thinking in the New Testament is seen in the familiar story of the Feeding of the 5000 . Of the four Gospel accounts, only John names specific disciples. (John 6:1-14)

Phillip, focussed on needs, sees the task as impossible.

Andrew,is an “assets” thinker, says – “here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish..”

In all our Christian endeavours, the best of what we know,  have learned and can do, isn’t enough for the task until we willingly offer it to Jesus. In His hands, what we have to offer is more than enough.

So often we spend much effort to establish, catalogue and categorise needs, tending to down-play the assets at our disposal. Yet with assets as our staring point, along with the hidden, often neglected factor (the hands of Jesus), we see a task accomplished with people involved, their self-esteem growing, and a bonus of enthusiasm and excitement!


When Helping Hurts- How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert 


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