Promoting Economic Development: Empowering the Church to Empower the Community

May 1st, 2009
This article is featured in the Money (May/June/July 2009) issue of Circuit Rider

Every day when we turn on the news, look on the Internet, or open the newspaper, we are finding discouraging news about our economy. To be more specific, we are seeing an alarming number of foreclosures, layoffs, corporate downsizing, retirement plan losses, and a meltdown on Wall Street. This economy has not only people and businesses in a state of fear and concern but also our churches. Everybody is experiencing uncertainty and anxiety due to these tough economic times.

So what is the Christian community to do? Are we to sit on the sidelines of life and hope the economy will get better on its own without any help from the church? No—we must act with urgency and work together as the church of Jesus Christ to provide ministries that empower people to empower their communities. A healthy economy is one driven by persons the church has empowered to give back to the community.

Through our Economic Development Ministry at St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, we strive to empower people to be better. If our people are better, then the church is better, if the church is better then the economy is better, if the economy is better then this nation is better, and if this nation is better then this world is better. In other words, when people are better, money begins to circulate, and when money circulates, jobs are created, businesses are birthed, investments are increased, etc. We believe everyone wins in this equation.

St. Luke put the word “community” in its name for a reason. Most of Jesus' ministry was done outside the four walls of the temple. We want to make sure we are meeting the needs of those within the four walls and those outside the four walls of the church. We are a community church who has answered the call to move beyond the four walls that have confined many churches, and take ministry to the community where there are many needs to be met.

Our Economic Development Ministry has answered this call by dedicating itself to improving the economic status of the communities in which we interact. We strive to first empower our people who then will turn around and empower the surrounding neighborhoods, the minority community, and the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area. As our mission statement declares, we are called “to provide services to minority and women-owned businesses designed to strengthen and support these businesses to accomplish the ultimate goal of community empowerment and liberation through Christ.”

One of the most important things we do is provide educational opportunities to educate and empower people to be better. The Bible says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (NRSV) We do not want our people, especially our young people, who are the church of today and tomorrow to be lacking in knowledge. Therefore, we educate and empower people in the following areas: finances, employment, entrepreneur skills, credit building, resume building, interviewing skills, job searching, and much more. We strongly believe we must first educate and train before people can be empowered to go out beyond the four walls of the church. Take a minute to ponder and imagine what the economy and world would look like if we had more people with reasonable knowledge in the areas mentioned above.

Another thing we do at St. Luke is strive to support business owners within the church. We produce a business directory with all of our businesses owned by church members and provide a copy to our membership and those in the community. This helps people to be well informed and aware of the different businesses owned by members at St. Luke. We then encourage our members to support these businesses not only with their money and resources but also with their prayers. Money alone is not enough; covering our businesses in prayer is priceless. One of the most effective ways our members are able to support our businesses is by the church providing opportunities for our local businesses to come and sell their merchandise. We do this by focusing on some of the major events in the life of the church. One of these events is our African Heritage Zan Wesley Holmes Lecture Series which takes place in February during Black History Month. During the lecture series, we invite business owners both within the church and out in the community to come so we can patronize their businesses. In these tough economic times, we must be creative and think outside the box by providing ways to keep our businesses afloat. Doing this will not only benefit the church, it will also benefit the economy and community.

We engrain in the minds of our members the importance of being in ministry to those who are less fortunate than we. Helping those who are less fortunate, those who sit on the margins of society and those who are poor in return we will see the economy strengthen. Each year we partner with different community organizations to help rebuild those communities considered to be run down. We identify homes in the community in need of renovations and repairs. Once we identify these homes, we put teams together who are then responsible for making sure the renovations and repairs are complete on the homes in which they are assigned. As we help renovate and rebuild homes, we have seen these communities and homes increase in value.

Perhaps you have not been able to come up with creative ideas to empower your church and community. Remember that great ideas are not just in the minds of clergy. The people we see each and every Sunday sitting in the pews also have great and creative ideas for ministry. I would encourage all pastors to sit down with laypersons and brainstorm ideas which will empower our churches and communities, and transform this world. We must not be afraid to sit down with those business owners in our churches and ask them how the church can be of assistance. Many of these persons are simply waiting for one of us to ask them their thoughts. Our churches are filled with people who have great ideas, some of which might be the one to make the pivotal difference in our communities during these difficult economic times.


Derek Jacobs serves at St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, as Associate Pastor of Community Outreach and Evangelism. Derek also serves as Campus Pastor for St. Luke's South Campus in the southern sector of Dallas County. This article originally appeared in Circuit Rider magazine.

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