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Effective Ministry Builds Upon Strengths

Metanoia Community Development Corporation, a South Carolina ministry program, has played a key role in transforming the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood in the city of North Charleston from one of the 10 most dangerous U.S. cities in 2003 into a community of expanding optimism and shrinking crime rates in 2013. The key has been the commitment of the program's founding pastor couple to listen first and form opinions afterward. "It creates the position of leaders as learners first," said the Rev. Bill Stanfield in an article posted on Faith & Leadership, an online offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, and causes planning to develop out of an understanding of the community's strengths. That approach "allows people to own their success, and I think that has a lot to do with the staying power of the organization," says Baylor University religion instructor Steven Porter. Building from strength invites residents to identify community assets, or to see potential assets in the community - for example, to see empty lots and abandoned homes as assets that can be redeveloped while providing job training and income, an increased tax base, stability for low-income homebuyers, and a deeper commitment to the neighborhood by those who benefit. Assets also include identifying promising students and supporting them through after-school tutoring, and training in leadership and entrepreneurship, which lead to strong future community leaders who can carry progress forward as they reach adulthood. For more on the concept of building on strengths, see the U.S. Congregational Life Survey website's subpage "10 Strengths of  U.S. Congregations," and our article, "Take Action: Understanding and Improving Worship Dynamics." 

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