Church and Community Project

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Fri, 07/01/1988
End Date: 
Sun, 06/30/1991

Carl Dudley and Phil Tom directed the “Church and Community Project,” the major phase of a larger enterprise begun in 1986; Dudley and Tom aimed at enabling “typical” congregations in Illinois and Indiana in developing community social ministries, strengthening the identity of the churches involved, and sharing their discoveries with congregational, denominational, community and academic audience. Thirty-six sponsoring or “contract” congregations received up to $60,000 to initiate their programs, with the goal of raising sufficient support beyond the initial “seed money” to assure the ministries’ future viability. Project staff along with external experts provided on-going training and consultation services, and monitored the overall research efforts. Of the 36 programs initiated in July 1988, 30 remained active as of June 1991 with over 5 million dollars raised to continue their ministry efforts. <p> Project staff concentrated their attention on strengthening congregational identity in the context of community outreach as a way of helping churches both rediscover their historic role as community builders and be revitalized. Staff encouraged the individual projects to move beyond personalized social action to focus on systemic change in their communities. Organizationally, issues such as establishing independent boards of directors, recruiting board members, public relations and fund raising challenged the success of the programs. Support from McCormick’s Center for Church and Community Ministries through regional and Project-wide conferences, special funding, individual consultations and various publications helped assure program success. <p> Instruments like the Church and Community Inventory II and Project Evaluations compared congregational religious orientation with congregational social posture to provide a new typology of congregational life and social activism. Overall Project findings revealed that: (1) with encouragement, typical churches will initiate or expand social ministries; (2) social ministries develop from a combination of congregational identity and community need; (3) leadership is provided by a variety and succession of people, not by a single, visionary activist; (4) project success depends on expanding the base of resource in both the church and the community; (5) conflicts come naturally and can be used constructively; and (6) each project has its own planning style, but all reflect a theological pragmatism in making the most of their circumstances.