Faith-Based Non-Profit Community Development

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For the past month I’ve been teaching a new (to me) Master’s level class on spirituality and the human services. It has been an intriguing class on many levels. All students in the program are already working in human services whether in mental health, addiction recovery, and so on. Not only that, but they all come from a variety of faith backgrounds ranging from non-faith to Native American to Christian and so on. As I was prepping for tonight’s class on “Contexts and Settings for the Delivery of Human Services” it has me continuously thinking about Intrepid and the church’s role in community and economic development.

If I’ve learned anything from urban studies, and in light of my class, is that you can’t swing a stick in this world without hitting the topic of local church involvement in seeking the shalom or betterment of communities. My favorite character in reading about church-led coalitions was a Catholic priest in the Bronx decades ago nicknamed Father Gigante. He stood toe-to-toe with public officials as he barked at them to back the poor in his community. If memory serves he even took a swing at a politician.

As this class has reminded me … when it comes to community development or the human services the faith community has and continues to play an influential role. Meaning, it’s not really “out there” for the church to be involved in community economic development in their communities. Just this week I read about a NYC congregation that announced plans to build a $1.3 billion affordable housing development to combat the ill effects of gentrification.

One of the taglines at Intrepid is “planting + development = gospel renewal.” That’s not really a stretch at all. Church planting wrapped in community and economic development seeks the shalom and wellness of communities. It’s really that simple. Context and the gifts and talents of each church will then reveal where and how churches can and should be involved. Let’s not overcomplicate it nor overthink it. What’s holding you back?