From August 31 to September 3, the Urban Mission Center got to send three people to the Christian Community Development Association’s (CCDA) annual conference. While there we were given the opportunity to learn from those who have been doing community development work and receive encouragement from them as we attempt to do that kind of work here in Benton Park West. The CCDA is an organization that was started to help bring like-minded people together so that we would be able to pull from resources throughout the country. The organization has officially existed since 1989 and has inspired many Christians to bring their 8 key components into their lives. Here’s a short introduction to the CCDA’s eight key components.
In order to really do work in our communities, we have to live within our community. Relocation is the idea that we desire for our neighbors and their families the same things that we desire for ourselves and our families. When we live among those that we work with it becomes easier to see the problems that they face and allows us to come alongside them as we work together to find a solution.
There are three types of relocation: relocators, remainers, and returners. Relocators are just what the name sounds like, they move to a different community to do work and live among the people there. Remainers are those who are born in a community and stay in the community in order to help it grow. Returners are those who are from a community but leave it to go learn in other locations so that they can bring back what they have learned to their community and use their knowledge to benefit their home.
The CCDA handbook, Making Neighborhoods Whole, written by Dr. John Perkins and Dr. Wayne Gordon writes about reconciliation like this, “Community development is content to help people find a job or a decent place to live. But Christian community development includes guiding people toward a reconciled relationship with God through Christ.” They focus on three parts of reconciliation: people to people, people to God, and people groups to people groups. Their goal is not to persuade or be persuaded, but to understand and be understood and respected.
Redistribution is about creating economic opportunities for all people. Dr. Perkins writes, “We’ve all heard the saying that f we give people a fish, they’ll eat for a day; if we teach them to fish they’ll eat for a lifetime. CCDA-style redistribution goes further by asking a question I raised in my book Beyond Charity: Who owns the pond?” On their website, the CCDA describes redistribution like this, "When God's people with resources (regardless of their race or culture) commit to living in underserved communities seeking to be good neighbors, being examples of what it means to be a follower of Christ, working for justice for the entire community, and utilizing their skills and resources to address the problems of that community alongside their neighbors, then redistribution is being practiced."
“The primary goal of leadership development is to restore the stabilizing glue and fill the vacuum of moral, spiritual, and economic leadership that is so prevalent in poor communities by developing leaders.”
CCDA believes that in order to have a lasting change in a neighborhood you have to raise up leaders from within that community. This isn’t an easy process, it takes completely investing in a select few that you feel called to and teaching them what it means to be a Christian leader.
Listening to the Community
“Christian Community Development is committed to listening to the community residents, and hearing their dreams, ideas, and thoughts. This is often referred to as the "felt need" concept. Listening is most important, as the people of the community are the vested treasures of the future.” Listening to the community allows us to appreciate what the community has and what its actual needs are. This is important for community development because too often we think that we, as relocators, have all the answers needed to fix a community. However, when we take the time to listen to our neighbors, we find that we can create better solutions to actual problems that our neighbors are dealing with.
For this one I’m just going to let the CCDA speak for itself, the lay it out quite nicely.
“The community of God's people is uniquely capable of affirming the dignity of the poor and enabling them to meet their own needs. It is practically impossible to do effective wholistic ministry apart from the local church. A nurturing community of faith can best provide the thrusts of evangelism, discipleship, spiritual accountability, and relationships by which disciples grow in their walk with God… It is the responsibility of the church to evangelize, disciple and nurture people in the Kingdom. Yet, from the command of Jesus, it is also the responsibility of the church to love their neighbor and their neighborhood. Churches should be seen as lovers of their community and neighborhoods. It is out of the church body that ideas and programs should emerge… The church helps people to understand that each person has gifts and talents and all must utilize those for the greater good of the community. A worshipping church breaks down many of the barriers including racial, educational and cultural barriers that often separate people in communities.”
A Wholistic Approach to Ministry
In order to help people reach their full potential, we can’t compartmentalize the problems people face. That, too often, allows us to reach for simple answers to what are actually complex problems. “Christian Community Development has a wholistic approach to ministry that deals with the spiritual, social, economic, political, cultural, emotional, physical, moral, judicial, educational and familial issues of each person.“ CCDA believes that the best way to help someone is to get them connect and engaged with a church because the church is the best place for people to receive complete healing. They write, “It is important to network with other churches and organizations in communities. In order to accomplish the wholistic aspect of ministry, pastors and leaders must be networkers. Christian Community Development builds coalitions in communities so that they can work together to solve the problems.”
It’s not enough to just give handouts to people, that creates and continues dependency. The CCDA works it out like this, “Three principles come out of God's welfare system in the Old Testament. First, there must be opportunity for people to get their needs met. In Deuteronomy and Leviticus, this happened to be a field with food in it. Secondly, the person who had a need must be willing to work for it. The widow, alien, orphan or poor person must go into the field and pick up the crops. This, then, involved work on the part of the poor. This is also found in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 which says, "If you don't work, you don't eat."
Thirdly, when these first two principles are working, a person's dignity is affirmed. All people have inherited dignity by being created in the image of God. Oftentimes, charity demeans a person and strips him or her of dignity. The last principle of empowerment affirms a person's God-given dignity.”
Empowerment is about affirming people’s dignity and their ability to contribute to any situation. Instead of just giving handouts, allowing people to work or help with the solution helps them feel their inherent value. It helps them grow in their confidence that they have something that they can share with others.