A Different Way to Transform our Communities
November 23rd, 2015
By Paul Bartlett

I want to talk about a revolution we’ve had at Lighthouse in recent years. Essentially it’s revolved around a shift in our community engagement from simply finding a need and meeting it to discovering the strengths and assets of our community and working with them. I think we should never get to the point of thinking that we are doing so well that we don’t need to improve or learn from anybody else. At Lighthouse we’re always trying to learn from others. I’m constantly borrowing ideas from other people and churches and organizations.

It’s called ABCD, which stands for Asset-Based Community Development. Over recent years this ABCD approach has helped us to focus on what we actually have in our hands already, not on what we don’t have. I like it because it’s the “glass half full” approach to community transformation.

ABCD sets out four steps your church can take tomorrow to launch community transformation: discover, connect, act, and celebrate.

Discover: This is the first step. Here you identify the assets or resources your community – and your church – already have. It involves mapping the incredible assets and passions within the community, such as the people’s gifts, groups’ passions, industries, and events. It also includes identifying land, buildings, equipment, and parks that could be useful. Look at asset-mapping what your community has. Don’t look at what your community doesn’t have and try to fill in those gaps.

Connect: This second step involves linking these assets so that community transformation can begin to click into gear. Here’s what I’ve learnt about community transformation: I can’t save the world on my own! I’ve discovered that it will take at least three of us! A great African proverb says, “If you want to go faster, go alone. If you want to go further, go together.” Churches can really shine by building meaningful relationships between community assets, whether that’s individuals, groups, clubs, churches, government bodies, and so on. The ABCD approach is built around collaboration within the community.

Act: The third step is to begin to implement action. I think the key to community transformation is to become opportunity obsessive. So look for opportunities to connect resources and ignite action. Begin to share and work together to make the most of what you have and empower people to act on what they care about. American writer Margaret Wheatley once stated, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

Celebrate: This final step involves revelling in the past, present, and even future successes of a healthy and strong community. I want to challenge you to consider your own town or city. What makes it great? Whatever it is, find it and help your community celebrate it. I find that churches don’t speak much about the past, but community heritage is cool. It’s uplifting to a community to promote and celebrate something inspiring that happened years ago. And why not celebrate what you have now and what could be in the future?

Why don’t you journey with us? Share your ideas and your stories with us at acccommunityengagement.org.au – Let’s help each other think differently and act selflessly in this time God has given us. Remember, your greatest opportunity starts Monday… Thank God!