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"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known..." Ephesians 3:10
Churches have been uniquely called to impact our society for good.
In this book, Dr. Tony Evans moves beyond looking at why the racial divide and offers "the solution" we have all been looking for to bring about racial unity in our country and restoration to our communities. Unveiling a proven local ...
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known..." Ephesians 3:10
Churches have been uniquely called to impact our society for good.
In this book, Dr. Tony Evans moves beyond looking at why the racial divide and offers "the solution" we have all been looking for to bring about racial unity in our country and restoration to our communities. Unveiling a proven local model for the church he shows how when believers come together with a common goal and purpose our communities and ultimately our nation can be transformed.
THE CONDUIT OF THE CHURCH
The structure to address social and racial problems is already in place. We don't need to create new institutions in order to implement viable and lasting solutions; we just need to leverage that which we already have.
The church, in particular, exists as the best vehicle through which we find the necessary elements to achieve the purpose of social restoration, for a number of reasons.
First and most obvious, churches are located everywhere. In fact, there is an average of three churches for every public school in America. Consequently, churches are closer to the needs of the people since they are located in the heart of the community. In addition, churches offer the largest volunteer force in our nation. Next, churches already have buildings for housing community programs. And finally, churches offer a spiritual and moral frame of reference for helping people make the right choices.
Since many of our communities' issues are ethical and moral at their foundation, churches represent the most natural social service agency to address these issues. The church provides holistic, long-term solutions that change how people think, which ultimately determines how they live.
One avenue of broadening the churches' impact on their communities is to recognize that churches and schools represent the social, educational, familial, and potentially spiritual nucleus of the community. As people and businesses come and go, churches and schools remain and are ready to accommodate newcomers to their neighborhoods. If these two institutions share common ground as well as longevity, a strategic alliance between the two can precipitate, to a greater degree, positive outcomes for children, youth, and families living in the community.
The spiritual must never be neglected if life is to function as our Creator intended. On the contrary, the spiritual must integrate with the social at every level. Yet doing this in a nation that has essentially removed God from our public schools and many arenas within our communities must be done in such a way that respects the institutional separation of church and state while also reflecting God's kingdom values through acts of service.
In essence, social services to those in need satisfies the law of love while building a relational bridge back to God and the ministries offered through the local body of Christ.
Research verifies what we have frequently heard, and that is that those most open to conversion and life transformation are under the age of eighteen. Two out of every three Christians trust Christ prior to this age. Yet our operative values in the church, which are often revealed by our budgets, rarely take this knowledge seriously. It may be time to rethink our strategies.
George Barna, popular Christian pollster, states that polling shows that the target of the modern day church is adults. He says, "Adults are where the Kingdom action is." However, as a result of extensive polling on the formation of worldview, habits, spiritual development, and the creation of patterns for making life choices, Barna concludes that outreach "to children is the single most strategic ministry in God's kingdom [and will have] ... the greatest possible impact."
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on programs, worldwide missions, and ministries aimed at adults when the ripest harvest is right across the street in the lives of young people longing to hear that they are valuable, skilled, and have both a future and a hope. The church is the corporate structure already set in place to deliver that message to a generation in need.
As we reach kids, they become the conduit to reaching the whole family and community. As the lives of children are impacted through churches' adoption of schools, the opportunity to access and influence families increases. To the degree that families are strengthened and stabilized, communities are positively affected. This is so because the breakdown of the family is the single greatest cause of social disintegration.
And social disintegration affects everyone in our nation, not just those living in our urban centers.
Taxpayers spend more than $8 billion annually on high school dropouts for public assistance programs such as food stamps. Teen pregnancies contribute to a $10 billion annual bill by way of public assistance, lost revenue, and increased health care costs. High school dropouts earn an average of $260,000 less over the course of their lives than graduates—which equates to a cumulative loss of over $300 billion annually in earned taxable revenue. Our prison population has nearly tripled the number of inmates since 1987 to the highest per capita rate in the world, and now costs us over $52 billion a year on budgets for prisons.
The consequences of society's problems reach us all and have contributed to our nation standing on the brink of economic collapse.
Our society's problem is not solely our government's problem. It is the church's problem. It is our problem. Our mission field is not merely across the sea. It is across the street—in our own Jerusalem and Judea—in Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, Miami, and in your community. To look away now may cost us more than we can afford. It may even cost us the futures of our own sons and daughters.
KINGDOM IMPACT IN THE CULTURE
Making an impact in our communities is not something that will come easily, though. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."
One of the ways that this is done is through what we have established in Dallas as a local model of church-school partnerships. Church-school partnerships consist of churches partnering with schools to seek to rebuild communities by comprehensively influencing the lives of urban youth and their families in addressing the education, health, economic, and social needs of hurting people based on spiritual principles.
This strategy began organically when I was a young pastor in what was then, and still is now, a predominantly urban community nearly three decades ago. A nearby high school was experiencing increased difficulties at the time, including delinquencies and low academic achievement. Gang activity had broken out affecting all areas of performance within the school. The principal of the school decided to reach out to me for help. After I got his call, I decided to go over to the school with around twenty-five men from our church. The principal stopped all the classes and brought all of the male students into the gymnasium, and we shared what it was like to be a real man.
After our time together, and after some of the men from the church began hanging out in the hallways—offering help and hope to those in need, plus accountability for those who wanted to cause trouble—the gang activity shut down. Student grades went up, delinquency was lowered, and the school acknowledged that the church connection was good for producing a more productive learning environment.
The principal later became the superintendent of the district of eighteen schools, and requested our church's involvement in all eighteen schools. We then organized ourselves and adopted all of the schools, expanding our support services to each through mentoring, tutoring, counseling, offering skills training and wrap-around family support services. When the word got out to neighboring school districts, the eighteen schools soon became thirty-six, and eventually increased upwards of over sixty schools at this time.
In addition to that, I initiated a meeting open to all the principals once a month and hosted at our church for Bible study, prayer, and spiritual encouragement. Over the years, we saw an average of thirty to forty in attendance, and these meetings continue to this day biannually.
Many of the problems students had in school were an extension of brokenness in the homes. When we adopted the school, we also connected with the families, which in turn allowed us to connect at a deeper level with the entire community.
As our church positioned itself to be the major social service delivery system to the schools, the church provided an avenue to community transformation outside of the schools. This came through a pregnancy center, thrift store, educational center, food pantry, and much more. In fact, we have one of the largest functioning black pregnancy centers in the nation, providing not only prenatal care but also classes for both fathers and mothers.
We help people get an education and acquire job skills through our Technology Institute, then help them find jobs and get homes. We have a thrift store to help sustain and expand the economic growth in the community, as well as a Credit Union. We develop businesses and provide medical assistance on a regular basis free of charge to the community.
Why do we do this?
Because the church has been uniquely called to impact our society for good. Churches around the country are to set the agenda for effecting positive values and beliefs. One way this can be done is by partnering with public schools and reaching into the community to attract a high quality of life in that area. When churches can set the agenda for the community, positive returns are compounded.
The mission of revitalizing and transforming communities begins with the individual along with the foundational truth —what a man thinks, he becomes. To put it another way, one's behavior is controlled by one's thoughts. If one's thought life is changed, the person is changed. Changed individuals transform families, and transformed families restore communities.
One of the most exciting aspects of this community outreach strategy is that it is scalable. The program works whether you have a church of forty members or forty thousand. Our church serves more than sixty public schools because we have enough members to sustain that level of impact. However, smaller churches can still make a significant impact in their communities by adopting just one public school (elementary, middle, or high school).
Additionally, the program is cost-effective because the basics of what you need are already in place at both the church and the public school. The actual program cost is contingent on the scope of services your church wants to offer and your capacity to deliver those services.
Whenever I go into a community to speak, I seek to rally the pastors and community leaders around a shared vision for a unified community-wide impact through the adoption of schools. My vision is to have ministerial associations, church denominations, or a group of churches in a local area band together to adopt all of the public schools in their community.
If every community adopted such a strategy, then over time the whole nation would be impacted through this bottom-up approach to community transformation.
THE LOCAL MODEL
At first sight, this may not appear to be addressing the depth of our racial divide in our nation today. However, a closer look at offering social services rooted in a shared spiritual source reveals our greatest opportunity for applying the principle of unity. Teaching, preaching, singing, praying, writing, reading, and celebrating unity are all important elements of racial reconciliation. But actually rolling up our sleeves to work alongside each other toward a shared purpose and vision will not only bond us together but will also simultaneously undo elements of the generational effects of systemic racism.
A kingdom approach to social outreach encourages partnerships between churches of varying racial makeups in order to merge strength with strength to create a more viable impact in the community. An overview of the outreach strategy includes:
Public Schools Outreach—Promotes healthy school and home environments by building relationships with students through a combination of activities such as:
Mentoring—seeks to implement character development while creating a sense of belonging among family, community, and peers. Mentoring also provides a means of surrogate parenting, to some degree, as needed. Mentors are either assigned as a group mentor (one adult mentor with a group of up to four same-sex young people) or as a team mentor (several adults working with small groups of young people). Mentors meet weekly on campus during school hours to discuss current needs and/or issues along with strategies toward making healthy choices
Tutoring—involves one-on-one assistance in the area of reading, language arts, and/or math.
Life Skills Education—addresses a wide range of topics including sexual abstinence, anger and violence control, continuing in school, and substance abuse prevention.
Annual Back-to-School Rallies—brings students together at the church for entertainment, promoting a drug-free and stay-in-school message while also introducing the gospel message.
Special Assemblies—offers complete assemblies done by a local pastor or local Christian celebrity/athlete along with program staff on four pre-determined topics, with the aim of encouraging high school students toward the choice of sexual abstinence, school readiness, and other positive life-promoting choices.
Parenting Education—provides parents of participating public school youth with information and skills that promote family bonding and support systems.
Youth Outreach Center—serves as a safe, positive neighborhood hub for a variety of spiritually based social and entertainment options, including an athletic league and summer program, as well as offering summer employment opportunities.
High School Heroes—leverages the strengths and talents of outstanding high school students by positioning them before junior high and elementary students as role models for tutoring, and assemblies
Monthly Principal Meetings—monthly breakfast designed to provide a forum for like-minded dialogue and strategy-planning on improving the conditions within the schools, which also includes a spiritual emphasis by a local pastor.
Technology and Education Institute—A job readiness testing and training center, which uses a variety of software applications to teach and enhance marketable and academic skills through the following programs:
Adult Literacy—teaches basic reading and writing skills to adults with little or no reading ability
Pre-GED/GED Preparation—provides the necessary knowledge and test-taking skills to pass the state examination
Computer Training—offers in-depth, high-quality computer training in a variety of software applications including Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe, Flash, and HTML application training
Professional Development—promotes personal development and career advancement through providing useful skills and knowledge.
Economic Growth Assistance—Seeks to provide a comprehensive approach to addressing the community's economic needs by helping the unemployed and underemployed become employable. The services include:
Job Training—offers computer training, clerical training and training in other job skills.
Networking—uses relationships within the business community to assist in job placement.
Business Incubator—provides potential entrepreneurs assistance in every area of business start-up through compiling business plans, skills and market assessments, and more.
Junior Statesmen and Stateswomen—a program designed to prepare the next generation of political leaders, working in connection with the local political leaders.
Human Needs Assistance—Addresses pressing issues such as inadequate nutrition, joblessness, and housing and clothing needs by assisting individuals and families through the following services:
Food Pantry—open to the public to meet the needs of the community by supplying basic food items such as sugar, oil, canned vegetables, and flour. The food pantry is stocked by donations from the church as well as community vendor donations.
Resale Store—provides the community with a place to purchase new and gently used items such as clothing, home accessories, and furniture at a highly discounted rate.
Housing Assistance Program—offers seminars on credit repair, foreclosure prevention, home repair, home ownership, HUD, and mortgage acquisitions.
Excerpted from #We Can Do Better PART 2 | STRATEGIES FOR RACIAL UNITY THROUGH COMMUNITY RESTORATION by TONY EVANS. Copyright © 2013 Anthony T. Evans. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Conduit of the Church
Kingdom Impact in the Culture
The Local Model
The National Strategy
The Benefits of Strategy
We Can All Do Better
Appendix: The Urban Alternative