When seeking to engage with our local communities using an asset based approach it is often very helpful to first apply that strength based lens to our congregations. Asking powerful questions to draw out what assets, passions and gifts we have ourselves. There are two significant reasons for this:
- Where our place of strength meets a place of strength in our local community we have found a great starting point for connection (a bright spot)
- When people are working from a point of strength they will do so with greater drive, energy and love.
To this end I think it is fair to say that in any group of people there will be people who engage with community engagement/development in a different ways and all are useful. All are MOST useful when engaged in the way that best inspires them. This is reflective of our understanding of the Church as a body made up of many parts, all of which work together to enhance and compliment one another.
The most helpful way that I personally have come to think of these strength-groups in community development is as:
Co-imagine-rs – those who set the vision and ensure that people stay true to that original dream. These people are those who like to re articulate a lot and can be a little frustrating to others because these seem to just keep banging on about the same thing all the time. These people are very helpful because, if well utilised, they stop mission-drift and, if given the right language and tools, can keep people inspired.
Co-designers – those dreamers and creative types who are really good at thinking outside-of-the-box and leading teams- often these will be those in key leadership. These people might be frustrating because they can’t seem to stay on one task or idea but always want to do something new or differently.
Co-creators– the do-ers. They may not seem to cast vision and may even get frustrated with those who do keep banging on about vision because they just want to “get on with it”. Alternatively they might just be the “foot soldier” type who stick their hands up to bake scones every morning tea and never seem to tire of it (but must always be given the appreciation they deserve for this tireless work ethic).
Community Conduits– those who seem disinterested or even uninterested, who just don’t stick their hands up for anything and/or who actively seem to sit on their hands. Most of the time these people are this way because this community is not their primary community or primary focus. While often the frustration of these projects with the right inspiration from the other groups these people will be the sales people of the work you are doing to a wider audience within their primary communities and focus areas (often without you even knowing it).
When drawing out these strengths I am often inclined to start at the top of that list and work my way down- to find those who are best at casting vision, at setting a course and most of all of selling that vision to others. To work (probably using a circle council style gathering) to get them around a vision that inspires them and then get them to articulate who might be the creative people to put the legs (and “legs” don’t have to be programs, just action) on how to outwork that vision (for example using some open space) and then get those creative people to recruit their workers while sharing the story well and often with the wider community so as to inspire those community conduits.
Hope that’s of help and credit to Richard Harmer who has helped a lot of my thinking in this area.
If you would like a further conversation on how this might play out in your community please feel free to contact me at Baptist Care SA (firstname.lastname@example.org)