Tuesday, February 27, 2007

ecclesiological musing

over the past two months i have been utterly overwhelmed by the number of resources that are available for low-income, disabled and otherwise challenged residents of boston. i've had a number of meetings with massachusetts rehabilitation counselors who will go to any length to help their clients find adequate employment, visited a brand-new head-start daycare that not only provides free early childhood education for their students (who speak 29 different primary languages!) but also have an on-site licensed social worker who helps the children's parents find rent assistance, sign up for venezuela/citgo's generous share the warmth heating oil program and pursue any number of additional forms of aid, and have been overwhelmed by the great lengths that personal friends are going to in other cities to ensure that homeless citizens that struggle with mental illness find permanent housing.

what does this have to do with the church? well, i would like to suggest that all churches of moderate to large size (say 500 +) in attendance, have a licensed and/or experienced social worker on staff. i suspect that many churches would be able to serve their communities more effectively if they focused on helping families and individuals connect with the wealth of social services that are already available, rather than needlessly replicating services that are already available within the community. i realize that there are undoubtedly exceptions to this rule, such as churches that are located in small towns or in less "developed" environs, but in general i think that both moderate to large churches and their communities would benefit greatly from such services.

anyway, that's what i'm thinking today. your opinion, as always, is welcome.


Agent B said...

I agree. Churches shouldn't busy themselves by replicating social services that are already available.

But within the service system there is always a lack of humanity. Not necessarily saying this is you or your work. But you know...people often become numbers, these numbers become stats which equates to funding, and on and on. A machine.

I'm thinking more and more that people of christ are called to be friends to and treat those in the social service system like humans. Even if that can be only one person at a time.

...and I'm just speaking from the perspective of the fair mother city. Boston area social services could be a paradise for all I know.

Check out Jonathan Kozol's "Rachel & Her Children". I think it shares my experience that the system is often a machine.

Agent B said...


Link here

mike said...

sure and the next thing you will be telling me is that church should be more organic and about people not programs or dogma.

you will never be a famous pastor with lots of books with this kind of thinking.

buck up man i was hoping to ride your coat tails.

my word verification is purbak: like J-lo's - yeah baby that thing is purbak no plastic there.

g13 said...

i agree with you about the dehumanizing tendencies of social services agent b. that's one of the reasons that i think Kingdom oriented social service accompaniment makes a whole lot of sense. of course, the latter role could easily be perverted into a form of propaganda and unwelcome proselytism, but that's another post altogether.

oh yeah, i love kozol as well.

fletchie, one of these days i'll start wearing form-fitting pastel sweaters and preaching sermons on finding christ while organizing your closet. you've just got to give me a little more time:)

james said...

Churches with Social Workers on staff is a fantastic suggestion. What do you think the church (as a whole) needs to get over in order to begin implementing this practice?