Why Community Partnerships? Why Now?

When think about Disability Ministry in your community do you think about community partnerships? If not, maybe you should. The time for community partnerships is now.  

Travel back in time with me for a moment. Think about how towns were established. What was at the center of each town? A church! Communities used to be built around faith communities. Also within each community would be school (sometimes within a church). Beyond the church and the school you would find some form of government.

It wasn’t that long ago that people within communities relied on each other and their faith communities. Over time our communities have modernized. Over time our communities have experienced industrialization. This began a rapid change in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Think back to that timeframe. What was happening in our communities? That was when we saw the explosion of growth from franchises like McDonalds and Walmart. People no longer needed to rely on their own families and communities. Everything they ever wanted or needed was available to them. And with that we began to see the de-centralization of our communities.

This created a worldview change within our country and our church. A community based worldview shifted to a more individualized worldview. People grew accustomed to going and getting what they wanted when they wanted it all from one place. Organizations and franchises started to become more competitive trying to offer one stop shopping for people.  

Just slightly prior to this industrialization something else significant happened in our country. In 1947 we saw in the courts the separation of church and state. The government, industries, and churches all scramble in different directions to become independent self-sufficient entities.

While they economy and the country grew this didn’t seem to be a problem. What we have seen in recent years with our country has been much different starting with what has been labeled the “Great Recession.” From December 2007-June 2009 we saw the GDP drop -4.3%. This was the biggest percentage drop since 1945. Despite the smaller recessions our country had experienced for the first time we felt a real crunch that reached across all sectors.

For sake of the growth of the Disability Ministry movement this economic downturn was a good thing. Hear me out. For the first time country wide we began to see businesses close, churches close, individuals losing homes, government funded programs being cut, and schools being forced to make difficult decisions our collective worldview began to change. We were no longer had the luxury of being as individualistic as organizations. We were forced to look beyond ourselves to see how other organizations around us had been affected by the down turn. We were all forced to ask difficult questions.

I believe this community organizational worldview change is directly connected to the recent growth of the Disability Ministry movement. Churches, schools, County Boards, and other independent organizations have all been forced to look at the good of the community and realize that no one organization holds all the resources necessary to meet all the communities needs. This has created an unbelievable opportunity for community partnerships. The needs of the community often times are trumping the fears that previously kept organizations apart. Churches and government are working together to meet the needs of the community once again.   

God’s blessing and community partnerships have been the two keys to the growth of our Disability Ministry at First Christian Church in Canton, OH. Check my next blog entry as I begin to unfold the story that God is writing at First Christian.