With the busyness of the holiday season behind us, I want to encourage us to stop and reflect. Many of us move at light speed with our New Year’s resolutions. So, do this reflection in order to not lose sight of the implications of the Christmas story. In particular, let’s reflect on the advent of Jesus, as recorded in John’s gospel 1:14 where it says “he came to dwell among us”. Jesus intentionally enters human history and re-introduces the concept of shalom. Shalom can best be described as the idea of justice and peace. It is justice and peace which encompasses the reality of restoration and reconciliation of humanity. Underpinning this radical theory of shalom is love, which binds all these together for true transformation.
Another key concept related to this idea of shalom is the theology of place. Jesus’ life best illustrated this. For example, before He shared this global vision of shalom, He was a practitioner of this truth. He was regionally present. Think Geography for a moment: Jesus lived out this radical calling in Galilee, Jerusalem, Samaria, and other local, smaller provinces. His model for kingdom building was centered on two things: being relational and ministering in proximity.
Recognizing the “what,” “why” and “how” of the church’s role in the local community is the first step to follow this model. In Fresno alone, there over 400 churches, 92 neighborhoods, with 59 languages spoken. Fresno is the 5th largest city in California with an estimated population of 522,053 residents. So, before the church can develop strategies to reach the people in the community, we first need to understand some of the dynamics and barriers that exist in the community and church today.
For example, the average church in North America is in decline. Trends estimate about 10% of people are actively engaged in a church on any given Sunday. The rise of commuter churches can create a sense of an open market for families to choose from. Yet the over-saturation of local churches in any given region may also be factors to this phenomenon of decline. This creates a dilemma for many local neighborhoods today that lack an incarnational witness to the transforming gospel of Jesus. It is essential that churches and ministries recapture the idea of the local parish if they want to see real community transformation. To engage in this process is to develop a renewed understanding of the importance of place from a theological perspective. In other words, thrive where you live because where you live matters.
Here are some suggestions for neighboring like Jesus:
Recognize that every person in the community deserves to be engaged in their context. Like an onion, this work has many layers. Simply understanding the cultural and social-economics of a neighborhood is a good initial step for engagement. Community transformation happens though relationships, not through transactions. Without relationships you have a transaction.
Become aware of your neighborhood boundaries. Research the city. Learn about the demographics of the city. Discover the felt needs by listening to the community.
On behalf of our ENP board and staff, we’re proud to present our 2017 Annual Report.
As we approach our 10th year, we find ourselves reflecting back to our humble beginnings. We are encouraged by the growth of ENP, but even more encouraged by all we have learned since ENP began in 2008.
We have learned:
how to better train our volunteers to serve in the classrooms
how to better make Saturday Sports a community event, not just a school event
how to better engage with our neighborhood families through Asset Based Community Development
how to better serve our churches
that our universities and colleges are vital partners to serving our schools
that collaborating with over 20 other community-based organizations in the community builds our capacity as well as theirs
by including the residents and youth who live in our neighborhoods, we create the greatest opportunity to solve community challenges
Looking Towards 2018
As we enter this new year, we look forward to equipping, mobilizing and assisting our community to serve their own neighborhoods, schools, students, and families. We know we’ll be better in December than we are now. Why, because we know we’ll get to continue to work with amazing people in an amazing community.
We truly thank you for your continued friendship and support. If you haven’t yet supported the transformative work of ENP we would love to have you join us! Donate here.
It’s a season of thankfulness and giving – a great time to bless the staff at your partnership school!
Several of our partnership churches find ways to regularly bless the teachers and staff. This blessing can be as simple as coffee, tea, donuts and fruit. Gestures like this can brighten a teacher’s busy morning in amazing ways.
I have been working on a blog about Play for some time now. However, I hadn’t been able to narrow my focus well enough to share some of the things I have come to know about play in a concise and effective way. That being said, my intent is to simply share bits and pieces of the things that I have come to know about play. I’ll begin with an attempt to answer this question: “What is play exactly, anyway?”.
Healthy neighborhoods foster and create a sense of community. These neighborhoods utilize the skills and assets of those that are a part of them. Our goal at ENP is to be a part of creating and supporting healthier neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, many neighborhoods in our city are not healthy. People and institutions are disconnected and distrustful of each other. Relationships become transactional instead of transformational.
As we seek to serve others in the city and be a part of neighborhood transformation, we realize that we need to build a new form of community. Communities that can combat the complex problems that affect our neighborhoods.
This idea is most easily understood through an example:
Say your church begins serving in a neighborhood and you realize that access to food there is an issue. So you start a food pantry. The church is very excited about this, and many members drop off food to pass out. Several members even volunteer to lead the pantry. But, since you are holistically minded, as you begin the project you open your eyes, start asking questions, and thru listening to others, you realize that…
Every Neighborhood Partnership constantly works to build support for our local elementary schools. When launched in 2008, our primary goal was to partner a church with every elementary school in Fresno and Clovis. We knew that churches had the capacity to truly make a difference with our kids, school staffs and families. This has proven true.
Yet, we soon realized that there were other stakeholders in our community that could add even more support to both our schools and neighborhoods.
There is a growing movement across our nation to something that is both incredibly simple yet extremely difficult. Loving Your Neighbor.
It is one of the two key commands Jesus gave, but in our mobile 21st-century context we have lost the art of loving (or even knowing) our literal next door neighbors. God has uniquely created you and placed you to be His connection to a disconnected world. You are sent by God to be a light to your neighbors.
Several local churches have created resources that they want to make available to you to help make this happen!
andrewfeilLoving Your Neighbor – 2 Free Resources!