Monday, November 28, 2005

Making Religion Relevant

This morning as I drove to work I listened to a segment of Relevant Radio, a broadcast that supports the beliefs of the Catholic Church. The President of Relevant Radio was discussing business social responsibility and the role Catholics in business have in encouraging greater business responsibility.

This is the Monday following Thanksgiving. I just spent the past three days thinking of Thanks and Giving. Over the next four weeks we'll be bombarded by messages of holiday cheer, as well as holiday shopping. Thus, today's Relevant Radio stimulated this blog post.

What will it take to mobilize an army of believers into a force that helps end poverty by providing youth living in poverty with the consistent adult support needed so they stay in school, stay safe in non-school hours and are starting jobs and careers by age 25?

Religion can be more relevant to me, and maybe many others, if faith leaders connect people with each other, and with information that helps them solve every day problems. While I’m sure there are thousands of people in faith communities who meet on the Internet, in their churches, synagogues, temples and mosques, and in their homes and offices with a purpose of helping people in poverty, I’m not sure that these people are united in a long-term vision that makes their help consistently available in every poverty neighborhood in America for the next 20 years.

A way to test this premise is to look for charts that illustrate the goal of an organization. A picture is worth a thousand words, so a chart that illustrates jobs/careers as the goal of a social enterprise, would more clearly communicate this goal than dozens of sermons or political speeches.

Here's what I mean.

At http://www.tutormentorexchange.net there is a section titled Tutor/Mentor Institute. In it you can read power point essays with titles like “Theory of Change, Tipping Points, Creating a Network of Purpose, etc.”. Another is titled “T/MC use of GIS Maps”. The charts and maps in these essays illustrate the Tutor/Mentor Connection's commitment to helping kids reach careers.

I encourage you to read these and share them with leaders of your own faith and business/civic networks.

If members of faith communities begin take ownership of the ideas in these power points they will make religion relevant by connecting people who can help with young people who need consistent help for many years if they are to move from a birth in poverty to the first stages of a job and a career by age 25.

To me, the faith leaders who connect members of their congregation with information that helps them build stronger communities, and help the most disadvantaged in our society, make their religion more relevant to their members. In the same way, a politician who connects his supporters with places in the community where they can help is a much more relevant leader to me than one who only uses the “volunteer” and “donate” buttons on his/her web site to recruit support for his own election campaign.

Over the next four weeks, amid the holiday reflections, I encourage faith leaders, political leaders and business leaders to use the T/MC Map Gallery and T/MC Program Locator Database to build connections between their followers and volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in big cities like Chicago. Furthermore, I encourage them to meet in the T/MC on-line discussion portal ( at http://msg.uc.iupui.edu/TMC/html/index.php ) to lead discussions of strategies they can use to support constantly improving tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities.

This is a time of sharing. It’s a time when those who have been blessed by birth, opportunity, mentors or just good luck to reflect on those blessings and find ways to help others have similar opportunities and good fortune. While many will spend time feeding the hungry on Christmas day, I’m hoping some will lead strategies where the hungry and the poor get the help they need every day of the year, not just on the holidays.

Volunteer-Based Tutor/Mentor Programs enrich the lives of youth, volunteers and communities. They are not high profile, like hurricanes or Tsunamis, or presidential candidates. But they serve people who need help now, and will need continued support for many years if the end result is that they have jobs, careers and are helping others have the same good fortune.

Please find a tutor/mentor program and send a contribution.

To support the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Cabrini Connections, send your donation to 800 W. Huron, Chicago, Il. 60622. Or visit http://www.cabriniconnections.net/holiday.htm and use our Pay Pal donation form to send a contribution.

At http://www.mentoring.org you can search a national database of mentoring programs to find other organizations where your contributions will make a difference.

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