Thousands of churches around the country are working to support people in their communities, providing activities ranging from food banks and debt advice, to night shelters and job clubs. Given the impressive scale and diversity
of Christian community engagement, it is all the more important that we continue to reflect upon the nature of that work - the way it is being delivered and its impact.
In this paper, we hope to do just that. In doing so, we
are motivated by a perception and a concern that recent church-based social action has been unduly influenced by a service delivery model which focuses on meeting needs through professionalised institutions. While this model has its benefits and is appropriate in some contexts, we believe it also has unintended consequences, particularly for churches, and that these deserve attention.
We first offer a critique of the traditional service delivery model, setting out why we, as Christians, would challenge the conceptions that lie at its heart. We then consider two possible responses: changing the way we deliver services by using a co-production model, and focusing on building stronger, more resilient communities through asset-based community development. Finally, we offer three theological convictions to help guide local churches as they seek to work together with their community to cultivate life, and life in all its fullness.