How often do you look around town and think, “Gee, I wish someone would clean that place up” or “It’s a shame no one is using that space”? or “We really need more_____” (job opportunities, housing, access…). What if you brought some like-minded folks together to develop a plan to actually act on those thoughts? How might that impact your ministry? Would you do it if funding wasn’t an issue?
Last July, the USDA Center for Faith and Opportunity met with our Ministerial Alliance and a few other community stakeholders to encourage us to form just such a group. The USDA is working to help rural communities gain access to grant funding for development projects, and our community was recommended to them through Convoy of Hope Rural Compassion.
However, you don’t need the USDA to specifically partner with your community to access funding. The conversations we had over the next few months led us to realize that we really needed to develop our own non-profit entity which could apply for and receive grant funding whether it comes from the USDA or private foundations.
The most important thing that the USDA has done for us so far is start the conversation. Our rural communities have so much untapped potential. Residents have watched as businesses have come and gone and have not been replaced. We have watched as empty homes and buildings have slowly deteriorated.
But now, we have a small group (four passionate board members) who are working to create a culture of revitalization and accountability. We don’t want to see buildings sit empty. We are dreaming up new purposes for old spaces, developing solid, sustainable business models, and tapping into local assets while partnering with outside funding sources to see these dreams become realities.
But what does this have to do with ministry? Isn’t ministry supposed to be about making disciples and sharing the Gospel? YES! The Olive Branch Rural Resource will maintain a Christ-centered approach to community development. The projects we are dreaming up will each open doors to relationships with unchurched persons in our community.
Some of our projects will focus on creating jobs, improving housing, and gaining access to resources like health care and childcare. There will be components of faith-based education, evangelism, and discipleship throughout. As the community is being transformed economically and physically, our prayer and our intent is that lives will be transformed spiritually as well.
If you would like more information about this concept of ministry with your community, contact me! I would love to hear about your dreams for ministry, answer your questions, or offer my coaching or consulting services to you, your ministry team, or your congregation.
Are you interested in learning more about developing a non-profit for rural development? I have put together a PDF step-by-step guide to walk you through the process. Click here to get that free resource sent to your email.