Saturday, September 22, 2012

Religious Organizations - A Force for Social Change

As you head into your weekend reflections I encourage you to read this article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review, titled A Faithful Force for Good

I often comment on the SSIR articles, but sometimes chose to post my reflections in my own blog.

I think faith communities have huge untapped potential to influence social change. They already have one of the most effective communications systems in existence and they have millions of people coming together each week to network and share ideas. Thus, I think it's only a matter of time before we see cable TV shows that look like the current Gospel hour shows, but when we tune in we find that these are planning sessions where the leaders are using maps to show all of the places within 5 or 10 miles of different congregations where members can become change agents by giving generously of their time, talent and dollars.

I've created some presentations that are intended to inspire faith leaders to take this role, such as this one

In addition I've written a few dozen blog articles to show what strategies faith leaders might adopt to help kids living in inner city poverty gain an expanded network of adult supporters who help them move from first grade to their first job.

In these I use maps to show not only poverty, but locations of different faith groups in the Chicago region. Faith leaders could survey their congregations and determine the current level of involvement each location has in supporting youth through tutor/mentor programs. They could create their own maps showing their current level of influence in the region then set goals to expand their influence from year to year. They could even use these to build collaborations with other faith groups and influence what private sector and elected people do.

Most religious organizations have a calendar of holidays, Holy Days, messages that are delivered each year at the same time. I created this graphic in the past to show how faith leaders might use the same 52-week calendar to encourage congregations to become involved with the information I share about where and why tutor/mentor programs are needed, and as volunteers, leaders and donors, supporting the growth of one or many tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities.
As a growing number of faith leaders integrate this thinking into their own actions we'll be able to build greater attention for the issues facing youth, families and congregations in high poverty, and more connections between those who were blessed to be born in more affluent circumstances with those who were born in areas where greater challenges exist.

If you know of religious groups using maps, sermons, TV shows, web sites, etc. to connect congregations with poverty in their regions share links and stories about them on your own web sites and evangelize these examples throughout the faith community so that good ideas are adopted in more places.

Who better to take this role than faith communities who are more accountable than most of us to a higher power.

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