Mecklenburg County, NC is one of the most difficult places in the US for children to rise out of poverty. If your church wants to change the world, start with the children. According to a new study, places that offer a better chance to rise from poverty…”tend to share several traits, Mr. Hendren said. They have elementary schools with higher test scores, a higher share of two-parent families, greater levels of involvement in civic and religious groups and more residential integration of affluent, middle-class and poor families.”
- Invest your time in an elementary school. You can start by simply volunteering to read a book with a kindergartner. But don’t let that be your final destination.
- Find out where the children from the school live and spend time in their neighborhood. It is the quantity and strength of relationships across socio-economic-ethnic boundaries that gives the best opportunities for someone to be lifted out of poverty. Become one of those relationships – be the Word become flesh moving into the neighborhood. Living in a better neighborhood makes all the difference. If they can’t move, join them in their neighborhood and help their parents make a better neighborhood. One church I know meets the school buses in the afternoon as they drop off the children. They bring sandwiches and snack bags so the children go home with nourishment to share with their siblings and parents.
- Join a civic group in a neighborhood struggling with poverty. These may not have the names of civic groups you are familiar with. Ask around and you’ll likely find community service centers, recreation centers, and social action NGOs that are serving the communities. Become an active partner with one or more of them.
- Share worship and ministry projects with churches in the neighborhoods where poverty is high. Be patient. It takes time to build relationships of trust with an outsider to the community.
- You’ll find budding artists, aspiring musicians, talented poets, devoted social workers (some professional and some deployed by the Almighty), and leaders from every generation. Celebrate the amazing gifts that are waiting to be revealed from people in the community. Your investment of time isn’t about you giving to people who have nothing – but about you investing your time to discover and promote the strength, love and grace of people who have been neglected too long.
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