The A.B.C. (All-together Better Church) perspective on ministry and life in priority areas.
Often the approach we have in ministry is to work through the problems or needs in the context we are called to serve. The general perception of a Priority Area Parish (PA) is a place with deprivation, illness, and damaging social behaviour.
The church mission then takes the shape of serving the needs judged by demographic analysis, past experience and the reputation of the said community. While this understanding paints a picture it is a deficit identifying approach that starts from a negative premise. Thankfully, from what I have experienced so far there is a call to reframe this.
Foot and Hopkins (2000) produced a guide for asset based community development entitled ‘A Glass Half Full.’ This publication identified the approach of mobilizing individual and community assets “that sees citizens and communities as the co-producers of health and well-being, rather than recipients of services.” It is the focus upon what assets the individual together as a community have in order to address what they have identified they need and therefore make improvements to their community and to the level of health and well-being.
While this is the current developmental policy for some community development strategies there is something to be said about its modus operandi for ministry and church life. In a culture and community where there appears to be no hope or prospect of a healthy valuable living existence, we know because of God’s creation of life in and of human beings there is plenty to offer and to live for. Cameron Harder applies this line of thought to church and its ministry when he wrote his book ‘Discovering the Other.’ It is when we (The Church) are “engaging with others, with their stories, their hopes and their gifts” we discover the rich diversity within our community. Discovering the gifts, the talents and the time people offer then the church can be shaped. We mustn’t be afraid of it being shaped differently to what we, or any institution might want it to be. I have found that we need to start with a mind-set that we are the community and therefore shaped by it on micro and macro levels of environmental and societal influences. (This is also with a view of it being a relationship and thus the opposite is also true, i.e. the church shapes the community’s environment to, being part of it.)
So, running the risk of sounding idealistic, what a better place to start than with each other, what better place to build than with each other and this (community) “begins when people seek to know each other.” What we discover is the means of growth and sustainable living all together. It is asking the question what do we as a community have rather than what is it we are lacking.
As a church leader the challenge I have found lies in the change of mind-set of ministry to be from “I am called to lead and therefore I know (or, have the responsibility to know) how this to be done” (subject matter expert syndrome) to, “I as a leader and the Church are called to share in this community’s journey as community on this earth living together by the grace of God.”
All-together in every area – What a privilege it is to work collaborative sharing with every aspect of what it means to be a community. From the Public services, Third Sector Services and to Church being conjoined with the community’s heart and will leading in their way, nothing can be more challenging. It is not be easy, but it is rewarding as a Priority Area Parish (or any parish for that matter) for we know that God has plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future (Cf. Jeremiah 29:11).
It is the operative word ‘us’ that underpins my perspective on ministry life within a parish particularly with a Priority Area Parish. The A.B.C. perspective.
Foot and Hopkins. A Glass Half Full: How an asset approach can improve community health and well-being, 2010.
Harder, C. Discovering the Other, Assest-based Approaches for Building Commuity Together. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013
 I&DeA Improvement Development Agency Guide. A Glass Half Full: How an asset approach can improve community health and well-being, Foot and Hopkins, 2010, accessed March 14th, 2017, http://www.janefoot.co.uk/downloads/files/Glass%20half%20full.pdf
 I&DeA Improvement Development Agency Guide. A Glass Half Full: How an asset approach can improve community health and well-being, Foot and Hopkins, 2010, Page 7.
 Harder, Cameron. Discovering the Other, Assest-based Approaches for Building Commuity Together. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.
 Ibid, page 3.
 Harder, Cameron. Discovering the Other, Assest-based Approaches for Building Commuity Together. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013. Page 3