Monday, March 29, 2010

How Do You Make Your Neighborhood A Better Place to Live?

This is the question that I keep asking for Anchor.

I keep asking it because there is no one simplistic answer. And because we don't have enough answers yet. But here's my best answer so far: Be The Church.

Why ask that question at all? Isn't there a better question for Anchor as a church to be asking? Maybe there are. Here's my point of conviction, though: when Jesus introduces his ministry, he announces that his work will be good news for the downtrodden, the prisoners, the disabled and diseased, the weak and powerless. These were the people of his neighborhood, and Jesus was the good news. 

So, fast-forward to these days: if we are the hands and feet of Jesus, and we are to be good news to our neighbors, how do you measure that in the community? Even though our congregation comes together from all over the city, we gather together in a particular neighborhood week after week after week after week. If we are good news, are we ever good news to the neighborhood we spend all that time in worshipping? And if worshipping and serving are two actions tied together, then is there a connection between our gathering in a neighborhood and our giving to it.

So what is it about being the church that makes the neighborhood a better place to live? That's what we're working to figure out. It's what we've been working on since day one. And the journey has taken us to develop a relationship with Judge Charles Pratt and the Family Court Division. Our neighborhood has many families wrapped up in the world of the courts and prison. So if we are going to be good news to them, we need to better understand what they are going through, and how we can be helpful.

Prior to the relationship with the judge, Anchor has been developing strong relationships with our neighborhood churches. This has proven to be a fun and enriching experience, fruitful and innovative. And because of that existing partnership, we were ready to join in on an opportunity presented to us by Judge Pratt. The Indiana Youth Institute wanted to re-establish a Fatherhood Coalition in Fort Wayne, and that meant making $160,000 available to institutions willing to come together and make it a reality. Two of our neighborhood churches have partnered with the YMCA - SOCAP, along with some other city non-profits and churches to serve and strengthen fathers in the city.

The National Fatherhood Initiative is a movement to mentor and lift up dads in need of wisdom and encouragement. And according to Judge Pratt, better dads would make a big difference in the families he sees in his courts, the same families that are in Anchor's neighborhood. And so, if Anchor is going to be good news to our neighbors, we need to keep partnering with others to lift up dads. This is part of what it means for the church to help make the neighborhood a better place to live. 

The Fort Wayne Fatherhood Coalition was approved to receive the grant from IYI, and so now begins a six-month project to invest in dads. If we are successful in meeting our goals, IYI is eager to fund our coalition again, as well as helping us improve and expand our services to fathers in Fort Wayne. Because of the grant we received, we will be able to hire a very skilled grant writer and program director for our project. This move strengthens our ability to provide long-term, innovative, and effective ministry to dads in our neighborhood.

Anchor is eager to serve the dads in our own congregation, in our neighborhood, and in our city. We're eager to partner with more churches and more organizations to encourage and train dads to be grow up and step up. And we're excited for where the Spirit is taking our neighborhood churches. It's a journey that will be a good gift to dads, a journey that will be a good gift to families in our neighborhood, and a journey that will give us more opportunities to not only share the good news, but to be be the good news.

If you'd like to be good news, you're welcome to join us!

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