Imagine this scenario: a four-year-old boy from a struggling, impoverished family is beaming with a tremendous smile as he is surrounded by dozens and dozens of people who are enthusiastically singing, “Happy Birthday” to him. Who are the almost 100 upbeat singers surrounding the little boy? They happen to be … recovery addicts. Could that happen? Yes it can, with partnerships in the city.
One key part of leading a church in mission within the city is partnerships. In every city, there are non-profit organizations who are seeking to bring about good in the area. While non-profit organizations can never take the place of the church, the church can come alongside these organizations, pool resources, and work together. More often than not, the results can be amazing.
At our congregation, one of our assets is a nice, spacious facility. In an urban area, real estate is valuable. A building and adjacent parking lots that sit empty except for a couple times a week can become a drag upon the surrounding neighborhood. So we made an intentional decision to open our building for the community to use. We wanted to find ways to partner with other like-minded groups in bringing good to our neighborhood through using our facility.
One of those groups was a residential drug and alcohol recovery program. Their facility is just a mile or so from our building. They keep residents for up to two years in an intense program, with a tremendous success rate. One of their needs is a big auditorium to host graduations. So we began to partner with them. Several times a year, they hold their recovery graduations in our auditorium, and it truly is an uplifting experience.
In response for this, they offer to bless a few of our church families who need a helping hand. At the end of every year, the program’s leaders challenge their residents to donate their Christmas gift from the facility to bless a struggling family. (They can use the $10 to $20 gift for themselves or give it to bless others.) They do this to teach the residents the value of gratefulness and generosity, a critical lesson for those in recovery.
Our church chooses a couple of families who have had a difficult year and are struggling financially. Then, those families are brought to the facility and are presented with the money given by the recovering addicts. With almost 200 residents, the gift ends up being a good amount. They have a special ceremony, where the families come and the recovering addicts gather. Both groups get to celebrate: one in receiving an unexpected blessing and the other in learning the joy of giving.
This last time, it just so happened that one of the children of the receiving families had a birthday. So not only did the residents offer the money, but they sang a birthday song as well. But this is just one example of many benefits of churches partnering with other groups to bring about good in the neighborhood. For churches looking to engage in God’s mission, a good place to start is to explore other good works that are happening in this city. How can we join them? What is God already up to and how can we join him in his mission?
Steve Cloer has been the preaching minister at Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX, since 2006. This historic congregation is located two miles south of downtown Fort Worth. Steve is married to Lindsay and together they have three children, Joshua, Bethany, and Lydia. They live in an urban neighborhood near the Southside church building. Steve graduated with his D.Min. in Congregational Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary in 2015.