Moving From Theory to Data
I like theory. I also love data. Data has a way or proving or disproving theories or ideas. It's not always clean-cut, but when it comes to ideas, new initiatives, or strategies data and good research is pivotal.
From the beginning I've been loudly beating the drum for the need to couple together church planting with community and economic development. How or why did I come to this conclusion? Since we're specifically targeting communities "in transition" it means that what we're confronted with are communities in need. Obviously "need" can mean a lot of different things in different places. Also, needs are felt more acutely in some places more than others.
For example, a few weeks ago I spent time in Douglas, Arizona walking the streets with a local pastor. Since then I've continued to dig into more about the history and present reality of this city that shares a border with Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. Currently Douglas faces a 32% poverty rate. This is a far cry from Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada which is another community on our Strategic Communities list. A common shared theme is the need for new jobs in these smaller rural communities. Douglas has a population of 17,000 while Revelstoke sits at 7,000.
Both communities have and continue to seek to tap into tourism (including adventure tourism) as a strategy to strengthen and grow their local economies. Both communities were also founded on mining. While the mine closure has decimated Douglas, Revelstoke has been growing as a world-class winter sports and mountain biking destination. Douglas struggles with high poverty and other peripheral issues related to being a border city.
Data. The province of British Columbia brings in $19 BILLION a year in tourism dollars. That's more than all of the resource extraction industries combined. If you were a community dependent upon logging or mining then why would you not want to throw your hat into the ring and try to seek to capture these tourism dollars for your community? What do you do when the mills or mines close? In Oregon bicycling tourism alone brings in $300 million a year into the economy.
These are important stats and data even though these are very rudimentary because there is a lot more. They matter because this means jobs (or lack of jobs) in many communities across the West (and Quebec) where we are getting started. This is why we want to be part of these trends and movements. Sure, we want to plant churches and see people come into a life-changing relationship with God. We also want to see shalom sowed and demonstrated in these communities through business start-ups that reflect the trajectory of where these communities want to go or need to go.
Pray for us as we seek to set-up two business start-up incubators in Portland and Tucson as we works towards this end. Our prayer is that we'll get to the point where were launching out all kinds of new churches and business start-ups into our Strategic Communities (and more).