Tonight I will spend some time by the sea.
St Andrew’s by the Sea is a Uniting Church congregation in Glenelg and I have been asked to facilitate a conversation with them tonight around re-framing their community ministry.
St Andrew’s already have a community ministry which would make many Churches jealous. They run a well-known weekly Soup Kitchen as well as a Café Program, Emergency Relief Service, Op Shop and Seniors Groups. They also have a very positive relationship with the local business precinct which has a lovely “community hub” feel about it. They have a well-respected Deacon to oversee this ministry who has plenty of experience in both local and overseas mission.
So if all of these programs are “working” why would they want to re-frame it?
Well the leaders of St Andrew’s are interested to see how they might apply a strength-based approach to their community work (as opposed to finding community needs and determining how to fix them).
Tonight we will take a look at what it means to be a part of a healthy community including what it looks like for a community to dream and create together.
I think St Andrew’s are to be applauded for not just continuing to provide programs that “work”.
Let’s be real; you can’t “fail” with a Soup Kitchen if you goal is to have people rock up.
The leaders at St Andrew’s, however, don’t just want “bums on seats” in their community programs but they also want to be sure that the programs they are engaged in are really making a difference.
I am not anticipating this journey will be all smooth sailing for the leaders. The questions we need to ask to really get at whether we are making a significant and sustainable difference in the life of our community are tough questions to ask. These questions are especially challenging when we’re looking at programs that have been running for generations.
Considering, however, that most of my conversations with Church congregations tend to happen at the desperation end:
“We are a struggling congregation with no idea of a way forward with our community… help!”
…and I am very encouraged that a congregation that is already recognised for its community work would also be willing to consider its approach in this way. I applaud St Andrew’s ministers and leaders and their desire to be significantly invested IN (not just serving) the local community.
Watch this space!