Friday, July 25, 2008

Focusing the Power of Faith Communities

In the past few months there have been news articles about the church Barack Obama attended, and the role of the Federal and State government in providing funds to faith based organizations. It seems that every time some child was tragically shot in Chicago, some minister is leading a march to "stop the violence".

I propose that we do some reflection, with small groups of people in churches all over the Chicago region, building strategies that would use the resources of that faith community (its members, its wealth, its influence, etc.) to support the growth of comprehensive, volunteer-based K-career tutor/mentor programs in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and the suburbs.

Here's some maps to help with that planning.

This maps shows locations of Catholic Churches in Chicago, and shows where poverty is concentrated. Imagine if the Cardinal were to set up a task force of CEOs who are decons and members of churches in LaGrange, Arlington Heights, Lake Forest, etc. with a goal of creating a marketing plan that would lead to a growth of tutor/mentor programs in neighborhoods of Chicago where there are Catholic Churches, as well as a growth in the number of churches in affluent areas who were supporting these programs with consistent messages from the pastor and Cardinal encouraging members to be volunteers, leaders, donors at programs they can find by clicking the zip code map in the T/MC Program Locator.

This map shows Baptist Churches. There are hundreds of them in high poverty areas where these shootings are taking place. Which of these host tutor/mentor programs? Which have received government money as a result of work done by Obama, Hendon, Jones or any other elected official? Imagine if the high profile African American faith leaders were using the information on the T/MC web site to build comprehensive volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, hosted by a church or bank or community center, in every neighborhood with high poverty, poor schools, too many shootings, and too few tutor/mentor programs.

Here's a strategy that faith communities might adopt to engage their members with tutor/mentor programs.

In the Tutor/Mentor Map Gallery we show maps for nine different faith groups (Baptist, Catholic, Christian, Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Presbyterian)

This map shows locations of nearly 140 different places where organizations are offering various forms of volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring. Our goal is to help everyone of these locations become a best practice at what they do. If churches adopt this same goal, that vision is more likely to become a reality. Use this information to connect your members, and their work/social/alumni networks to these places. Make the same commitment to help kids to careers that we do at Cabrini Connections. Help other programs adopt this same long term vision.

You can start this Sunday, but encourage people to look for volunteer opportunities in these programs as they get set to start the 2008-09 school year. One program, called me this week looking for more male mentors. It's the Partnership to Educate and Advance Kids (PEAK). If you can volunteer, contact them now.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection would be happy to create a planning map for any faith group, or business group, and put flags on locations which host tutor/mentor programs, or which support tutor/mentor programs. These could be used to determine market share, and build growth strategies. They can also lead to collaboration among churches, hospitals, businesses.

A neighborhood may need several tutor/mentor programs, serving different age groups, or different gang territories. However, it does not need one program in every church, or every business.

The maps show the various stakeholders who could be working together to build a range of long-term, career focused tutor/mentor programs. When the marches lead to this type of thinking, planning and leadership, we can begin to see a light at the end of this terrible storm.

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