Friday, June 17, 2011

Go Fish!: "Where are the churches?"

“Where are the churches?”

That was my question as several hundred people swirled around me at the recent 8th annual Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp in San Francisco.

Boot Camp is a one-day conference for staff and volunteers from a wide variety of nonprofit organizations. It includes speakers and workshops designed to give nonprofits the tools and skills needed to help communities. It’s also a great place for like-minded people to network and collaborate.

One of the amazing things that struck me was that in the sessions I attended was that I heard a government official and leaders of secular community groups say they wanted to collaborate with churches. They encouraged their audiences to invite congregations into partnerships to bless (my word) surrounding neighborhoods.

Yet, as I met people and heard people introduce themselves in the workshops, I wasn’t hearing or seeing representatives of churches or faith-based groups. That’s not to say they weren’t there, because they might have been and I just didn’t see them.

About mid-afternoon I thought, my church should be here. Which led me to my question above: “Where are the churches?”

Here were secular folks, the ones we often think don’t want to work with us, and they were encouraging other secular folks to reach out to churches.

One reason given for why government, nonprofits, churches and businesses need to work together is that the problems we face right now are too big for any one entity to solve them. Only through partnership and collaboration can we make communities whole and healthy again.

Toward the end of the day we broke up into groups to reflect on what we had learned during the day. One woman shared that she experienced an epiphany.

“As a librarian I go to a lot of library conferences,” she said. “I realized today I’m sick of going to library conferences because we talk to each other and never grow.”


Her words hit me hard. I could have taken out the word “library” and inserted “church.”

I go to a lot of church conferences. We talk to each other and we never grow.

I’m not suggesting that we stop going to church conferences. We need to come together, worship together, learn from each other, and be encouragers of each other.

But I would say don’t only go to church conferences. Seek out the places local government, community groups and businesses are hanging out together. Start brainstorming how all of you can work together to bless your community.

Just before I went to Boot Camp, I reported on an amazing community event put together by a faith-based organization called Beautiful Day. It’s a prime example of how churches, local government, and nonprofits can work together. More than 2,400 volunteers worked on 17 projects to refurbish schools and homes, help the homeless, minister to disabled youth, and more.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can see the two stories I wrote. One is about the event itself. The other is focused on one project, in which two retired police officers commanded 600 volunteers to refurbish an entire neighborhood. The photo above is from that project.

Where are the churches? Let's answer that question out in our communities by saying "Here we are!"

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