Neighborhood Mapping: How to Make Your Church Invaluable to the Community

Neighborhood Mapping: How to Make Your Church Invaluable to the Community

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If your church relocated, would your neighbors notice? Would there be an outcry for you to stay?

Whether you are a church planter, pastor, community activist, missionary, college ministry leader, or simply a Christ-follower looking to impact your community, this resource is for you.

Neighborhood Mapping by Dr. John Fuder is an engaging, practical tool available to assist workers in the field to better understand the communities they are involved with. It awakens the neighborhood explorer with effective methodology for "exegeting" their neighborhood, offering surveys and samples to lead them in that process.

Dr. Fuder calls believers to shift the focus from inside the church building to those who live in the community. He offers here an easy-to-use resource for those who care about ministry to “the least of these.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802411341
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 03/01/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

JOHN FUDER (PH.D., Biola University) is Director of Justice and Compassion Ministries of re:source global as well as a part time grad school and adjunct professor for Moody Bible Institute. In 1993, after 15 years of serving in urban ministry in California, Dr. Fuder brought his passion of equipping students for effective urban ministry to Chicago. As the Professor of Urban Studies at Moody Theological Seminary, Dr. Fuder taught ministry practitioners and students for 17 years. Dr. Fuder has authored many publications including A Heart for the Community, A Heart for the City, and Training Students for Urban Ministry. Dr. Fuder and his wife, Nellie, have three children and a granddaughter.

Read an Excerpt



By John Fuder, Ginger Kolbaba

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2014 John Fuder
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-1134-1



Our neighborhoods are in a continual state of change. God is sending the nations to our cities and as Christ-followers embedded in local churches we are, at times, overwhelmed in how to respond. Pastor David Potete, one of my former graduate students and longtime friend and ministry comrade in the Belmont-Cragin (Bel-Cragin) neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side, talked to me recently about the learning curve in working with his church to engage the community. His journey serves as a blueprint for us as we study and serve our changing communities. Here is his story.

* * *

I knew the importance of understanding demographics and the need to know the community the church is trying to reach. So when I and a few others planted Northwest Community Church in Chicago in 1991, I spent $600 on a demographic study of our neighborhood. But even with that knowledge, I had no idea the stunning value exegeting our community would have on the life of our church. In 2005 as part of my graduate studies, I took Dr. Fuder's class on community analysis. While it gave me a better understanding of what it means to be a student of my community, it only paved the way to the greater firsthand knowledge that came a year later when Dr. Fuder asked me if his graduate class could partner with our church to do a community analysis of our neighborhood.

Of course, I said yes. I knew I would learn more about the area I served. I met with the graduate students, discussed the neighborhood as I understood it, and worked with the class to develop a survey. The experience was informative and enlightening, since it challenged me to articulate my perceptions in a way I had not previously been forced to.

We surveyed the neighborhood, the grad class tabulated the results, and presented a booklet with several suggestions to our church. Though I was grateful for the experience, I didn't expect some great insight that would revolutionize our church.

At the time Northwest Community Church was 85 percent Caucasian, 10 percent Latino, and 5 percent African-American. Being in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Bel-Cragin, it was obvious to everyone that we needed to become more Spanish-speaking in our services. We made some effort, but admittedly, it was not very intentional. And not very effective. The most we usually did was to occasionally sing a song or read a Scripture in Spanish.

When our church was presented with the community analysis report, however, we felt as if it were a smack in the face. It helped us understand our community as we never had before. It clarified where we were. And it made it crystal clear to us where we needed to go.

Even simply pointing out the demographic makeup of Bel-Cragin in the report was eye-opening. Though we knew the demographics by experience, to see it in black and white on the page was critical. The report's recommendations made it clear we must be bilingual. Community analysis gave us insights that truly revolutionized our church!

With the report and our new knowledge and understanding of our neighborhood, the first thing we did was to revisit and develop a theology of the nations for our church. We already had that kind of theology for our international missions, but it was lacking for missions around our block. We studied passages in Scripture and concluded that our mandate to make disciples starts right on our street! We now hold the conviction that we are to be a truly multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual church. Part of that conviction is that we now hold bilingual services with Spanish and English combined in the same service.

We realized that if we wanted to serve and reach our community—as our name suggests—we had to make deliberate and intentional changes. In fact, our associate pastor, Gowdy Cannon, took the results so seriously that he traveled to Peru for a month to immerse himself in Spanish. We developed a translation team and began translating our flyers, bulletins, website, and worship slides into Spanish. We also invested in an FM transmission system to provide live translation through headphones.

Next we looked at our sanctuary's setup. The chairs faced the stage at the front of the sanctuary. One Sunday we moved the chairs into four sections with each section facing the center of the room. Instead of standing on the stage to preach, I stood in the center of the floor. When I was seated, I looked directly at my brothers and sisters worshiping. The first time I saw the joy of my Latino church family worshiping in their heart language confirmed to me that what we were doing was pleasing to God and a blessing to others. We now rearrange the chairs for this type of setup several times a year.

We still have a long way to go. Our attendance is now about 35 percent Latino, 5 percent African-American, 50 percent Caucasian, and a smattering of everything else.

There is no doubt in my mind we have become more of the church God wants us to be as a result of engaging in community analysis. And we are committed to reengaging in that type of analysis every few years to stay on track.

I thought I knew my community, and did to a degree. However, the process of community analysis clarified, crystalized, and truly changed our approach to fulfilling the Great Commission in our neighborhood.

* * *

Armed with knowledge, understanding, and the Holy Spirit's guidance, we too can go out into our communities to meet people where they are and introduce them to the gospel. Let's get started.


As we start unpacking exactly what neighborhood mapping, or community analysis, is and how to do it, let the following step-by-step process guide your journey. We'll go more in-depth with each of these in the following chapters.

1. Go as a Learner

Assume a position to understand, not judge the neighborhood. This requires humility, persistence, and the courage to push past your fears. An accepting and inquisitive posture can open doors into another culture. Linguist and missions author Betty Sue Brewster's steps of cultural learning is helpful here: Come as a learner, find ways to serve, seek to form friendships, weave God's story into their story, and bathe everything in prayer.

2. Seek Out an "Informant"

Find an individual who is a gatekeeper, an insider, a "[person] of peace" (Luke 10:6). This is someone who will let you into his lifestyle or subculture. He is an expert who can teach you about his journey as "lived experience." She is a model (albeit imperfect!) of another belief or practice and can connect you to that world.

3. Build a Relationship

As much as you can, be a "participant observer" in that person's life, culture, and activities. A relationship, growing into a friendship, is key because in it a "trust-bond" is formed, and trust is the collateral of cross-cultural ministry. In the process, God is at work to break your heart for that community (see Matt. 9:13; Luke 13:34).

4. Use an Interview Guide

You may not always "stay on script," but it is helpful to work from an outline. You could apply the same categories already provided and then adapt the questions (see appendix 1) within them to meet your specific needs.

5. Analyze Your Data

Depending on the formality of your community analysis, you will in all likelihood end up with some form of "field notes." A crucial step, often neglected, is to examine your data for holes, patterns, or hooks. What missing pieces could your informant fill in? What interests, activities, or values are recurrent themes? Is there anything you could use to enter your informant's world more deeply?

6. Filter through a Biblical Worldview

What Scriptures speak to the information you are discovering? What does the Bible say about the activities, lifestyles, and beliefs you are exegeting or reading in your neighborhood? What would Jesus do, or have you do, in response to the needs? A biblical framework is your strongest platform on which to mobilize your church/ministry/ school to action.

7. Expand into the Broader Community

Your informant can act as a "culture broker" to give you entry into the additional lifestyles and subcultures within the broader community. As you learn to "read your audience" (become "streetwise") and develop credibility in the neighborhood, you can leverage those relational contacts into greater exposure and deeper familiarity with the needs in your area.

8. Network Available Resources

As your awareness of the community grows, you will invariably feel overwhelmed by all there is to do, missionally speaking! You do not have to reinvent the wheel. Is anyone else working with that audience? Can you partner with another church, ministry, or agency? With whom can you share and gather resources and information?

9. Determine What God Is Calling You to Do

With your newly acquired knowledge about your community, what do you do now? Plant a church? Start a new ministry? Refocus your current programs? Much of your response will depend upon your personnel and resources. But you are now poised to do relevant, kingdom-building work in your community.

10. Continually Evaluate, Study, Explore

Our hope in Christ is firm, but everything and everyone around us is in constant motion. Is your neighborhood changing (again)? Who is God bringing to your community now? Is your church or ministry responsive to those opportunities? Are you winsome, relevant, engaging? We must always ask these questions, in every generation, in order to "serve the purpose of God" (Acts 13:36).



Q.What is community analysis?

A. Community analysis, or neighborhood mapping, is a practical approach of learning how to understand and reach your neighborhood in order to effectively proclaim and demonstrate the gospel.

Before we are able to map our neighborhoods, it's important to understand what this process looks like. The Word of God offers some clear direction, as well as a helpful formula designed to take us more deeply into a community.


Acts 17:16–31 provides a scriptural framework for community analysis. As you read these verses, note (particularly in the verses I bolded) how the apostle Paul was a culture broker, an astute exegete of culture who understood audiences.

While Paul was waiting for [Silas and Timothy] at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?" Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities"—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean." (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'To an Unknown God.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

The apostle Paul did three things as he "read" the community in which he found himself.

1. Initial observation. The first thing Paul did while waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive was to observe, or glance at, his surroundings. My older version of the NASB says that he beheld. This was just an initial look, a first glance. He noticed things that needed biblical attention. So much of understanding a community is seeing the need, being willing to be in it, walk in it, experience it. Do we see? Do we allow God to break our hearts over our communities in the tragic disconnect between who Christ is and who the community is?

2. Deeper observation. In verse 22, we read that Paul told the group that he had been taking a closer look, an observation. It's about going deeper. He had time to muse and reflect. He was considering how what he'd seen was broken and what God's solution might be. This was a move from the "what" to the "how" of the issue.

3. Examination. He continued in verse 23 by saying he examined the objects of their worship. This word is the deepest of the three, reflecting an analytical process. He was now hypothesizing the "why" of the issue. He worked toward understanding their lifestyle and language, in order to tap into their longings. He moved into an aspect of engaging them relationally and trying to make sense out of this community, to find things in common, which led him to the boldness to proclaim truth to them.

Paul's posture is a model we can follow. He told them, "You're amazing! You are so sincere. You are seeking." He didn't chide them for what they were missing. He affirmed them for the fact that they were seeking. By verse 27, he was able to offer them the biblical solution they'd been looking for.

So What?

In the early 1990s pastor Leith Anderson put together a helpful formula for what community analysis looks like. He wrote that diagnosis (D) plus prescription (Rx), along with hard work (HW) and the power of God (PG) results in a changed community.

(D+Rx) HW + PG = Changed Church/Community

Let's unpack each of those aspects of the formula to help us better understand the strategic way we come to a neighborhood.

Diagnosis (D). I use the vowels a, e, i, o, u to help clarify what this means: analyze, examine, inspect, observe, and uncover. We use all of these techniques in order to discover the community. It implies a rigorous or disciplined pursuit.

Prescription (Rx). Based on that analysis or diagnosis, we prescribe an answer or a strategy, in a sense, a biblical solution. Think of it in medical terms. When we go to a doctor for any health issue, our bodies are checked out and diagnosed—that diagnosis is about getting to the root of what is causing the ailment. From that diagnosis the doctor then prescribes an antidote, a medicine to bring a greater level of healing. In a similar way, as Christ-followers, we look to weave the gospel into the fabric of a community, so we come as ministry practitioners, sort of spiritual doctors.

We understand the amount of training and the years of medical study that one goes through in order to properly diagnose a patient. From a ministry standpoint, we need not neglect or take lightly the work of analyzing or inspecting our communities. We do so at a damaging cost.

Many of us were raised in environments that are unlike the places God has called us to. I was raised in a small, predominantly Caucasian, town in Michigan. But God's calling on my life has been in big cities, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area, where I lived as a minority in ethnically and culturally diverse areas. I had a lot of learning to do.


Excerpted from NEIGHBORHOOD MAPPING by John Fuder, Ginger Kolbaba. Copyright © 2014 John Fuder. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Introduction: How Relevant is Your Church?
  • One Church's Success Story: Adapting to the Growing Latino Community
  • Top Ten Tips to Exegete a Culture
  • The "What"
  • The "Why"
  • The "Who"
  • The "Where"
  • The "When"
  • The "How"
  • Appendix 1: Life History Interview
  • Appendix 2: Survey Best Practices
  • Appendix 3: Sample Survey Questions According to Category
  • Appendix 4: Sample Survey, Learning a Neighborhood's Beliefs and Worldviews
  • Appendix 5: Sample Survey, Felt Needs of a Community and the Attitudes toward the Church
  • Appendix 6: Sample Survey, College Campuses
  • Appendix 7: Sample Ethnographies
  • Appendix 8: Resources
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgements

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

The needs in underprivileged communities are too often misunderstood and neglected, resulting in devastating impact upon the already poor and marginalized. Neighborhood Mapping by Dr. John Fuder is an engaging, practical tool available to assist workers in the field to better understand the communities they are involved with, and I highly recommend it as an easy-to-use resource to those who care about ministry to “the least of these.”

 Dr. Wess Stafford, President emeritus of Compassion International/Author of Too Small to Ignore and Just a Minute

I count it a privilege to endorse this book written by a man who loves the Lord but who also loves the great city of Chicago with its sprawling neighborhoods, broken social systems, and well known reputation for criminal activity! John’s heart beats for this city, for its families, its churches, and its children. Rather than run from these challenges, he is attracted to them, believing that God can be counted on to work mightily where the needs are greatest. At last we can benefit from John’s expertise, so we can better understand our particular city and minister without fear, knowing that God Himself loves the cities of the world. In short, this book is a gift to all who have a burden for the great and growing urban areas of the world that long to be understood, loved, and transformed with an authentic gospel witness.

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor, The Moody Church

Today most Christians are not short on a desire to impact city neighborhoods for Christ. Our only challenge is that our good intentions are soon sabotaged by our inability to know and understand the neighborhood dynamics in which we are trying to work. This “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” approach to neighborhood ministry sometimes is more harmful than helpful. So a big-time “thanks” to my friend John Fuder who helps us take the blindfold off so we can minister with eyes wide open toward effective outcomes.

Dr. Joseph Stowell, President, Cornerstone University

I’ve had the privilege of working with my friend Dr. John Fuder for close to twenty-five years to make the gospel relevant in under-resourced communities. It is with great enthusiasm that I recommend his new book, Neighborhood Mapping, to anyone who has a heart for seeing their communities impacted by the good news of Jesus Christ.

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association

A naval officer once told me “theory without practice is dangerous, practice without theory is deadly.” Dr. Fuder has street cred. As many churches launch into “inner city” kinds of ministries, they will save time and frustration learning from Dr. Fuder’s experience. Thanks, John, for helping us share Christ in complex places.

Dr. Michael Easley, Teaching Pastor, Fellowship Bible Church /Former president, Moody Bible Institute

When I first moved to Chicago over nine years ago the first person many told me I needed to meet with was John Fuder. I was told over and over again what an insightful and compassionate man he is. After meeting with him many times over the years I can only say—those were understatements. John loves the city and sees the city through a compassionate, hospitable, and gospel grid. He has been able to make alliances when others have not. He is trusted where many others are seen with a cautious eye. He wades in where many are hesitant.

Jackson Crum, Lead Pastor, Park Community Church

I cannot think of anyone more qualified to develop a gospel-centered community analysis format than Dr. John Fuder. As a graduate student in his class at Moody Theological Seminary, his teaching transformed my spiritual life. The same passion he demonstrated in the classroom is clearly reflected in the pages of this book. Without a doubt, this guide will provide users with a tool to effectively create and transform spiritual community ministry. I commend Dr. Fuder for his continued commitment to the cause of urban ministry.

Berlean M. Burris, PhD, Professor (retired), Moody Theological Seminary

If you long to see urban churches unified and God strategically moving through them, Dr. Fuder has created the text to aid in that vision. If you are a community activist, church planter, pastor, or lay leader in the city, this handbook is a necessity. God wants you to know your neighborhood, and with this Dr. Fuder has compiled all the tools needed to bring understanding and depth of knowledge to your context.

Candy Gibson, National Recruiting Director, World Impact

They say the world is flat and that we are all one big interconnected community, yet many churches still know little about their own communities. Community analysis as prescribed in this book will help ensure more effective outreach and better stewardship of kingdom resources for reaching your community.

Steve Roa, Director of Strategic Partnerships, US Center of World Missions

As I read through this wonderfully crafted tool for effective community analysis, the recurring thought in the back of my mind was “if only.” “If only” this well thought-out professional tool was available to my coworkers and me when we were serving overseas, how much better we would have understood and ministered to the people to whom we were sent. This manual is applicable anywhere in the world, and I especially encourage those working cross-culturally to make systematic use of it.

Dr. Marvin Newell, Senior Vice President, Missio Nexus

John Fuder has given us a helpful resource for analyzing and engaging our communities. This user-friendly guide uses the tools of ethnography to learn about our communities but with a thorough integration with spirituality and how God sees our community. This will be useful for students learning about engaging the city, as well as churches that are looking for guidance as they learn and reach out around them. The appendices are a wonderful bonus, containing helpful tools and surveys. I expect to use this often.

Dr. Jude Tiersma Watson, InnerCHANGE, Associate Professor of Urban Mission, Fuller Seminary

Truly here is a tool I wish I had twenty years ago in our ministry. Neighborhood Mapping not only inspires the concept of incarnational presence in the city, but shows us how to do it well. Anyone who seeks to understand the life and soul of their neighborhood and city will want to make this book a part of their tool box. Thank you, Doc Fuder, for another gift to all of us who are laboring to love the city.

Brad Stanley, Director, YWAM Chicago / Author, Finding God in the City

John, you sold me at the table of contents! Every city movement lead team needs your question-prompted process for analyzing their communities in real-time discovery rather than mere theory. The city movements I coach will welcome this new resource because it equips them to answer critical questions of how to examine neighborhoods and exegete the unique and changing culture of communities.

Neighborhood Mapping is a strategic approach that is perfectly suited to assist the whole church to show and tell the whole gospel to the whole city. Your use of Scripture is a refreshing juxtaposition of biblical truth and practical action steps, a field guide for both fresh thought and best practice leaders. Based on a lifetime of scholarly study and street-level service, it is up-to-date and state-of-the-art. On behalf of many city reachers, collaborative enterprises, and outward focused pastors and prayer leaders, “Bravo and thank you!”

Phil Miglioratti, National Coordinator, Loving Our Communities to Christ / COO, Mission America Coalition

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