In our particular faith context, UTN’s calling is to equip churches and church planters to initiate living, thriving, prophetic communities of faith that embody the Good News of God’s mission in words, deed, and character in their own specific contexts. For too long, the global church has appeared irrelevant to the challenges and needs in the community. Church has been seen as a place to attend on Sunday for singing and preaching, but to address real needs in the community, villagers either turn to the government or non-government organizations. While acknowledging that the church is an imperfect institution, churches are the organizations with greatest potential to reshape the lives of the communities where they are located. It is important to understand that ACI is willing to explore how our UTN project can engage other faith traditions where we can find bridges of cooperation as people of all faiths have the same basic human needs, i.e. education, housing, medical care water, sanitation, and food security. That being said, we are committed to not compromising our faith context.
We work to equip a church planter or pastor to lead the church to see its mandate to reach out with an integral mission to the whole person: body, soul and spirit, and to be prepared to act within the community as well as from the church base with a real understanding of the need to empower and develop people—offering a hand up rather than a hand out. In turn, we train the church leadership to think positively about how the church disciples, empowers, and develops people and communities, how it uses its resources, what challenges it faces, what it says “no” to (what it will not do), how and at what levels it engages with its society (who it partners with), and how it determines root problems and solutions. To this end, we utilize what is called Asset Based Development.
Asset-based development focuses on what people have rather than what they do not have. It doesn’t ask them what they need. Asset-based development recognizes that God has blessed every person and community with gifts, such as land, social networks, animals, savings, intelligence, schools, creativity, production equipment, etc. An asset-based approach puts the emphasis on what people already have and asks them to consider, “What is right with you? What do you have that you can use to improve your life and that of your community?” This approach to community development reinforces some very positive relationships:
• Relationship with God—God is seen as just and that He has provided for us.
• Relationship with Self—God has given me talents and gifts; being able to work to take care of the needs of my family and others gives me dignity.
• Relationship with Community—Shared resources, shared intelligence, etc., improves our relationships with our neighbors because we are working together.
• Relationship with environment/creation—I have resources I can use; the community is valuable and has resources.
In a follow-up blog post we will share more specifics about the application of Asset Based Development.