It always seems that the world’s problems keep piling up with no end in sight. Poverty, gender equity, hunger, hunger, environmental crises, homelessness, mental health crises, human rights violations, modern forms of slavery, the list is seemingly endless. These are complex, global issues that may require complex, global solutions. Yet, these issues are also visible in our local communities and I believe that the solutions can really begin there.
While solving large-scale problems will involve changing entire nations and societies, that is not the starting point. Instead, the starting point for impacting the world is impacting our communities. One framework that’s helpful for discussing how to impact our communities is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). You could read endless papers about the theory and practice of ABCD, but the heart of it is really captured in the title. We use our assets to develop our communities. That heart is also the heart of the gospel, and our calling as Christians to be good news in the world.
ABCD is asset-based. Rather than focusing on what we need to solve the problems around us, ABCD encourages us to focus on what we already have. Jesus does this in Mark 6:35-44. When the day is ending, and the crowd is hungry, the disciples focus on the fact that they have no food. Instead, Jesus encourages them to find out what they do have, and He uses a small boy’s lunch to perform a miracle. Jesus focuses on the assets, in this case food and a boy’s generosity, to meet the needs that He sees.
Often, we think of assets in financial terms, but we have access to so much more. Money is one kind of asset but so is time, a building, relationships, knowledge, experience, or an ability such as cooking, crafting, or gardening. All these things can be used to positively impact people in our communities. If we are willing to give these things to God, practically and prayerfully, perhaps we too will see Him meet needs that we previously thought too big to handle.
ABCD is also community-oriented. It’s not about tackling the huge global issues or changing an entire society. It’s about focusing on meeting the needs in your community with the resources available in your community. When the Israelites are in exile, God sends them a letter through the prophet Jeremiah. God instructs the Israelites to “build houses and settle down” and to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you” (Jeremiah 29:5, 7). Even though the Israelites aren’t where they would like to be, they are exactly where God has placed them and where He intends to use them.
Although you and I might not in exile, God has placed each of us where we are for a reason and He still commands us to seek the peace and prosperity of our communities. Don’t worry about trying to change the entire mindset of our society or changing national policy and practice. There is definitely a need for these kinds of large-scale action, but that is not the only action that matters. Our efforts to impact our families, churches and communities are just as valuable and they may impact provincial, national and international efforts as well.
Don’t worry about trying to solve every problem, and don’t worry about trying to solve a single problem on a national or international scale. What problems in your community do you connect with most deeply? What assets (time, talents, experience, resources and relationships) has God given you to alleviate the suffering associated with that problem? Start there.
*Footnote: For a great resource to help you consider how you can use your assets to join God in meeting the needs of your community, see CBAC’s Neighbourhood Assessment Workbook. http://baptist-atlantic.ca/news/neighbourhood-assessment-workbook/