Stop sitting on your assets

Ministry without utilizing assets is like a sports car without a country road. Like a lamp without anything to illuminate. Like a human without purpose. When we don’t utilize our assets, we miss the greater possibilities for ministry, and we are usually consumed by scarcity thinking. Too often our people, churches, and judicatories complain about what they don’t have instead of discovering, celebrating, and using what they do have. Too often our people, churches, and judicatories forget the assets in our communities and our congregations. Even if you are building relationships and organizing people, you can’t do mission strategy well without a clear sense of the assets within and outside of the church. Where assets are unknown, God calls us to discover them. Where assets are unappreciated, God invites us to take a kingdom view. Where assets are utilized for the common good, God’s economy is revealed.

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Uncover the Unknown 

Sometimes an asset is unknown because we do not know what an asset is. An asset is someone or something that can be positioned by God to bring blessing to an individual or group of people, or to a situation, or circumstance. Mission Possible: Design Thinking for Social Change, developed by Matroyshka Haus (an organization of faith-based missional entrepreneurs) provides a fun and instructive way of discovering the role assets play. Each team is given three random assets from three out of four categories (because we are rarely given everything we think we need). The simple asset categories are human capital (skills/time/numbers), facilities (buildings and spaces), money, and equipment. These asset cards contain such things as one hundred mason jars, three antique bikes, a football field for a day, two hours of graphic design, pro bono legal work for twenty hours, and the like. It is amazing to watch teams figure out how to use these simple assets to address a part of a real-world problem (e.g., poverty, alcohol abuse, hunger). They leave the game surprised and energized by the amount and variety of assets around them.

Sometimes we literally find ourselves sitting on our assets! When I (Joe) was sent to pastor Emory United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, I found myself leading a congregation with very few financial resources: a very old, declining building and property infiltrated with multiple signs of marginalization and broken lives. People used to tease us, calling our building and our congregation “the mausoleum on the hill.” Little did they know, and little did we know, that we had assets! We had a faithful few (people) who wanted to see their congregation and community revived. We had land—valuable Washington, DC, square footage. Those assets have enabled a vital congregation to emerge. The “mausoleum” has become a beacon of mission-focused change.

For years, Emory had searched for ways to address Washington, DC’s number one problem: the lack of affordable housing. This problem is the result of gentrification, rising property values and a skyrocketing cost of living. We saw the problem close-up in the people who were sleeping on our church steps each night. We discovered that because of air rights, we could use our asset of land to provide a solution. Lo and behold, we were sitting on the asset that was most needed! The people of Emory and community partners developed a $56 million housing project on the land surrounding our church. Now nearly three hundred people have an affordable place to live. Stop sitting on your assets! Interestingly, an asset doesn’t always take on missional meaning until the part of the problem you are seeking to solve is clarified. One of the best examples of this is found in Jesus, who in the midst of teaching experienced the problem of more than five thousand very hungry people. And so, to emphasize the missional meaning of what he was teaching, Jesus asked his twelve disciples to address the problem before them. The people were hungry and needed to be fed. He instructed the disciples to deal with the problem head-on instead of running from it. He asked them the question, “What do you have?” forcing them to look for assets around them. He believed and knew that the disciples possessed some asset that could help resolve the problem.

Excerpted from Connecting for a Change: How to Engage People, Churches, and Partners to Inspire Hope in Your Community by Joseph W. Daniels, Jr. and Christia Latona. Copyright © 2019 Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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