Community Revitalization

With their significant human and capital assets, historic sacred places can play an important role in solving some of the most pervasive problems plaguing cities across the country.

Strategically integrating faith-based institutions for greater collective impact

Partners for Sacred Places builds on its relationships with faith-based institutions and its singular role as a trusted umbrella organization specializing in work with faith communities to create solutions and strategies that mobilize networks of community faith-based institutions working to impact and strengthen their communities.  

Historic sacred places can play a role in solving some of the most pervasive problems plaguing cities across the United States, including: long-distressed neighborhoods; disadvantaged residents with little to no access to healthy food and challenges such as poor physical or mental health; and disconnected youth at risk for dropping out of school and engaging in reckless activities.

For many low-income populations, access to program sites has always been an important factor in participation rates in government and other service programs, particularly for those who do not own cars. Yet, most low-income populations are less mobile, not only because of transportation challenges, but because of the psychological boundaries that exist. These unmarked mental lines, which separate populations, may make a benefits site inaccessible that is, in fact, geographically close.

In addition to these access issues, disadvantaged, low-income populations tend to be isolated from mainstream services. The barriers to participation in government programs are well documented, particularly for the most vulnerable, hard-to-reach populations. Navigating government’s complex and time-consuming procedures are certainly one of the obstacles. But decades of community disinvestment have made many distrustful of government. And those most in need are, more often than not, the ones most reluctant to seek out benefit programs. These populations do, however, have trusted social networks.

A network of faith-based institutions can be activated to increase the capacity of government and service organizations to access hard to reach populations. Faith-based institutions act as de-facto community centers in many of these areas, serving as a place of assembly and activity, making them natural hubs for food access, health care and nutrition education. Faith-based institutions are trusted community organizations and reach vulnerable populations with whom many nonprofits and government agencies have difficulty connecting. Congregations come with a built-in structure of volunteers and leaders, allowing service providers to quickly accelerate their work in the local community within this framework.

Community engagement and asset-mapping

Since its founding, Partners for Sacred Places has worked with congregations to embrace the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model. ABCD is a challenge to the traditional approach to rebuilding communities. It provides a new framework for thinking about neighborhoods, and new strategies for mobilizing congregations in a positive way.

Whereas traditional community development tends to focus on neighborhood deficiencies, Asset-Based Community Development instead focuses on the gifts and talents of individuals and the capacity of neighbors and neighborhoods to be producers of change – to change communities from the inside out. ABCD allows congregations to cultivate connections within the community, mobilize the capacities of local individuals, associations, and institutions and empower community residents to become leaders.

Partners works with congregations to: identify new stakeholders and develop strategies for connecting the congregation’s assets with the gifts and talents of their members and neighbors; and identify key local assets – physical, individual, associational, institutional – and seek to connect these assets in new ways.

Capacity-building training for congregations

New Dollars/New Partners is a capacity-building training program that transforms how congregations see themselves, and their place in the neighborhood. Through the training, faith and lay leaders learn to identify, cultivate, and leverage new relationships. As their network of stakeholders grows, New Dollars graduates are able to unleash their unique heritage as a tool for restoring their infrastructure, recruiting supporters and revitalizing their community. Learn more here.



Watch the video here.

How valuable is the work carried out by charities and volunteer groups? Researchers in the United States have attempted to work out the cash value of voluntary work in the community. They have concluded that individual church charities carry out work worth millions of dollars – for free – every year.

The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott reports.