Filled to overflowing
Unacceptable Fact of the Month
If all Indianapolis residents living in poverty lived in their own city, it would be the third-largest city in Indiana.
As we planned the Faith & Action Project Spring Conference, we hoped 250 people would attend. When the March 14 conference started, more than 430 people had packed into the Shelton Auditorium at CTS.
As excited as we are by that attendance, we won’t fall into the trap of measuring success by attendance figures. Instead, we see that overflowing room as a metaphor for the overflowing desire for impact that was apparent in the ideas, dialogues and discussions that filled CTS meeting rooms and halls that day.
We also see that packed space as a milestone in a process of discovery, encouragement and equipping. Now, we move to the next milestone: the submission of grant proposals.
Info Session at CTS, March 22, 5 – 7 pm
To answer questions regarding the Faith & Action grant process
Here, too, we see overflowing interest — literally. The meeting room where CTS President Matthew Boulton was scheduled to outline the process for applying for Faith & Action grants proved too small to accommodate everyone who wanted information. So it was after relocating to a larger room that President Boulton explained that a total of $100,000 will be awarded for high-impact projects, that letters of intent are due by May 1, and that applicants chosen to advance to the next round will be asked to submit full applications by June 30. (To learn more about the grant process, click here.)
Once again, the number of people who attended the grant meeting was gratifying, but we’re not judging our success by the number of chairs we filled. Instead, we’re finding encouragement in the palpable sense of potential in that room. Passionate people representing a wide range of organizations, faith traditions and backgrounds listened intently so they could submit their ideas for impact.
It was an inspiring end to an inspiring day… a day that opened with Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett proclaiming, “There is not a single thing more important in the city than what is going on here today,” and a day that never lost that sense of importance.
We thank everyone who attended the Faith & Action Project Spring Conference, and we look forward to seeing our mailboxes overflowing with exciting ideas that will make a difference for the people in Indianapolis who live in poverty.
Lindsey Nell Rabinowitch
Project Director, Faith & Action Project
10 things we learned
1. Differentiate between symptom and disease. We try to address poor school performance by focusing on curriculum. We address hunger by opening more food banks. We respond to crime with more prisons. Meanwhile, the root causes of hunger, school dropouts, crime and more go unaddressed. As Deputy Mayor David Hampton said, “We can’t incarcerate our way out of poverty.” And Toxic Charity author Robert Lupton noted, “You can’t help a family if you don’t impact the environment that affects them every time they step out the door.”
2. Differentiate between crisis and chronic need. More than one speaker highlighted the difference between crisis and chronic need by comparing poverty to a natural disaster. When a hurricane strikes and leaves families without basic needs, we should respond with basic services: hot food, temporary shelter, household goods. When poverty strikes, we need a more substantial and sustainable approach that lifts them out of need, not just out of crisis.
3. Attack the system. Often, social-service work gets focused on single components of systems – individuals, institutions, communities or policies – and fails to address the entire system. Change requires a broader view. “The issues are systems,” said process consultant Jodi Pfarr.
4. Don’t create dependency. One byproduct of an immediate-needs focus is dependency. Lupton described the cycle this way: Giving once sparks appreciation. Giving twice generates anticipation. Giving three times nurtures expectation. Giving four times produces a sense of entitlement. Giving five times creates dependency.
5. Engage the assets of those in need. The practices of Asset-Based Community Development were cited regularly by Spring Conference speakers and attendees. “No one is so poor… that they have nothing to bring to the table,” Lupton noted. Cincinnati Pastor Damon Lynch III urged attendees to take a three-step approach to engaging the assets of individuals and communities: “Acknowledge, affirm, and activate.” Keith “Wildstyle” Paschall added, “Our communities won’t change if we don’t leave room to discover people and their gifts.”
6. Remember humanity. It is easy for organizations to get so caught up in their programs and services that they forget the humanity behind a community’s problems. To avoid this, we must force ourselves to see people who might otherwise become societally invisible. “Poverty is not an abstract idea,” Emory University Professor Dr. Gregory C. Ellison said. “These are real lives at stake.”
7. Promote meaningful existence. More devastating than hunger, poverty and other societal problems is a lack of meaning in life, Ellison said. If we help people see their value in the world, if we help them become “visible” in a world that too often looks through them, we will begin to address the real issues that lie behind daily crises. Goodwill Vice President of Mission Advancement Betsy Delgado said it simply: “Believe in people.”
8. Assess and adjust. If we fail to asses and evaluate the programs and approaches we use to serve the poor, and to adjust where we fail to make a difference, then we are failing to be good stewards. As Lupton put it, “Unexamined charity… is irresponsible charity.”
9. This will get messy. Success in addressing systemic poverty will not come from predictable, tidy approaches. There will be risks, there will be tension and there will be failure. Dr. Ellison encourages what he calls “fearless dialogue” to challenge people to delve into the messy areas of need, and Paschall points out, “It’s not an assembly line. You don’t know what you’re going to get.”
10. Be patient. Lupton described a front-step conversation with an inner-city neighbor he had known for five years. As the neighbor suddenly vented about his frustration with “mission volunteers” that came to his neighborhood — “They insult us without even knowing it,” he said — Lupton was shocked that it had taken so long for this man he considered a good friend to open up about this issue. Acknowledging that there are no quick solutions, Wildstyle offered a note of hope: “These problems have been around a long time. We’ve got plenty of time to fix them.”
A sampling of tweets from the Faith & Action Project Spring Conference:
Today, as thoughts are provoked, let us all keep a revolution of hope in mind.
We can’t incarcerate our way out of poverty.
You cannot fill a bottle by pouring into its emptiness. You can only fill it by pouring into its capacity and abundance.
An Oath for Helpers: I will never do for others what they can do for themselves.
Our communities won’t change if we don’t leave room to discover people and their gifts.
In poverty, relationships are most important. In wealth, connections are most important.
What a kid needs more than a toy for Christmas is an effective parent.
The first step to hate is contact without fellowship.
If we’re going to address teen crime, we have to address poverty. Teens need jobs.
If we’re not conscious of our experience, we act out of it.
Best solutions involve people from low, middle and high incomes all at the table.
The longest distance we will ever travel is the distance between our head and our heart.
Faith & Action Project in the news
IndyStar, March 19: Faith & Action: “This is life and death work we’re doing”
Gregory Ellison II challenged hundreds of nonprofit and faith leaders at the day-long conference to “wake up their souls” and really see the people they are serving. He reminded the crowd, “this is life or death work we are doing.”
WFYI, March 17: A Conversation On Poverty With Pastor Damon Lynch
Reverend Damon Lynch shares his approach for growing communities with WFYI Drew Daudeline. Lynch focuses his work on identifying the existing strengths of the people and community to create real change.
A CTS student’s narrative
Faith and Action Project at Christian Theological Seminary
Spring Conference, March 14, 2017
By Jaime Fluker
On Tuesday, March 14, Christian Theological Seminary opened its doors to over 400 individuals representing faith based and community organizations for the Faith and Action Project Spring Conference.
The day opened with opening remarks from Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, who reminded conference participants that, one out of every three children born in Marion County are born into poverty. As a result, Mayor Hogsett let conference participants know, “not a single thing is more important in the city of Indianapolis than what is going on today,” and that is addressing the needs of poverty.
Each presenter and speaker shared words of insight and encouragement. From Dr. Richard Lupton reminding us to in order to effect or impact change, one must do that from within. He warned conference participants of the toxicity of giving that exposes the inability of the families and individuals in which charities and organizations work to provide services to those in need. Dr. Lupton informed participants when we address the crises of those in need with chronic intervention people are saved. It is when we address the chronic needs of people with crisis intervention, people are ultimately harmed. His closing thoughts reminded us we must not see people as those not in need, but with talents and gifts and ultimately something to contribute.
The breakout sessions and panel discussion provided conference participants with opportunities for more in-depth conversations with one another. Discussions were focused on the individuals, the institutions and the communities in which service is provided. Dr. Hampton highlighted policies that help guide and lead anti –poverty work. These discussions aided participants in identifying where they should focus their time and attention. Conference participants were reminded it’s not the programs that eradicate poverty, but it’s when we begin to uncover gifts within the community, we can empower and develop those in need.
The day ended with an inspiring dialogue with Dr. Gregory C. Ellison, II who challenged conference participants to work and see the unacknowledged. Dr. Ellison also challenged conference participants to create opportunities for contact with meaningful exchange that we must always remembers that human beings are social cells that are created to belong. Dr. Ellison’s closing thoughts were to start by changing and impacting those who come into contact with daily who are within three feet in front of us.
The day began with a call to action and ended with a challenge of where to begin.
|Upcoming||Mark your calendar for these important dates.|
|March 22||Info session (optional for grant applicants) at CTS in the Common Room 5 – 7 pm
Light appetizers and refreshments provided
|May 1||Letters of intent due by 5 pm|
|Mid-May||Finalists notified and invited to submit full applications|
|June 30||Grant applications due|
|Late Sept.||Fall event/grant recipients announced|