Alban Weekly | Church finds new life, focusing on 'congregation' outside its walls

7 months ago

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 Church finds new life, focusing on 'congregation' outside its walls 
The first time the Rev. Kelly Chatman stepped into the pulpit at Redeemer Lutheran Church 17 years ago, he looked out at his new congregation -- 30, maybe 35 people at the most -- and got a sinking feeling in his stomach.
"I wondered if I had made a mistake," he said recently.
After 25 years spent mostly in education and church administration, Chatman had decided to try his hand at being a local church pastor. He had walked away from a prestigious and comfortable position as the director of youth ministries in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Chicago headquarters to take over a struggling church in a distressed neighborhood in Minneapolis.
Many years earlier, he had served briefly as an associate pastor in Oregon, but this time he was heading his own church. And it was not an auspicious beginning. On his way into the building that morning, he couldn't pretend that he hadn't seen the drug dealers doing business on the corner across the street.
"I said to myself, 'What am I doing here at this stage of my career?'" he said. "I wasn't even sure how long they would be able to keep paying my salary."
Soon, Chatman changed his perspective.
"I decided that the congregation wasn't the 35 people sitting in the pews," he said. "The congregation was the 4,000 people who lived in the neighborhood. Once I reframed it like that, it helped me see that the church needed to be a physical presence on the street."
Read more about Redeemer Lutheran Church »
Low-income communities are not needy -- they have assets
People who want to help low-income communities should see them as "half-full glasses" -- places with strengths and capacities that can be built upon, says the co-developer of the asset-based community development strategy.
Read more from John McKnight »
Building from strength
A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ministry in South Carolina has created a sustainable model for community development by focusing on assets -- those of the neighborhood and those of the organization.
Read more about Metanoia »
Sometimes the church needs to follow and partner with others
The pastor of an inner-city Chicago church shares how he and his congregation have changed the way they work in their neighborhood -- and how that has changed the community itself.
Read more from Jonathan Brooks »
Making a Difference in a Globalized World: Short-term Missions that Work
by Laurie A. Occhipinti
Every year, an estimated 1.6 million Americans participate in short-term mission trips, spending over one billion dollars-figures that have increased exponentially in the last two decades. About one third of U.S. congregations sponsor such trips each year. While they are referred to as "mission" trips, many trips focus not on conversion or evangelism, but on service projects-building a playground, providing medical care, or serving free meals to the poor. Short-term mission participants have a genuine desire to transform conditions of poverty, yet they don't always know how to go about it; many people involved in short-term mission work virtually reinvent the wheel when they design and plan their service projects. 
Making a Difference in a Globalized World: Short-term Missions that Work is a guide to leaders of such trips. The book presents clear insight and research from anthropologists and development professionals, and encourages individuals to lead mission trips that make a greater impact on the communities that they are serving. 
The text provides: 
a framework for planning short-term mission trips;foundation for planning;personal anecdotes and case studies;and practical suggestions for volunteer opportunities.This handbook is a vital resource for any potential mission volunteers or organizers. 
Learn more and order the book » 
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