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Friday, March 24, 2023

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Part 2


It’s time to take back our community and the church is in a position to lead the way.

About a month ago (July 20th) I wrote a column discussing the large number of local churches. I explained how if each of these congregations “adopted” the block on which they sit, Indianapolis could witness an immediate decrease in the rates of violent crime, drug use, incarceration, academic failure, unemployment, homelessness, teen pregnancy and health disparities.

We don’t need another commission or forum to discuss and analyze problems because we already know what they are. Now is the time to develop a blueprint of solutions and action steps, so here’s a strategy for our faith organizations on an issue-by issue basis:

Education – With most children and teens going back to school this month churches can play a key role in supporting neighborhood youth in building a strong educational foundation by doing the following:

  • Organizing a group of adult volunteers who can pick a subject area and serve as after school tutors to youth living near the church during afternoon/early evening hours.
  • Placing fliers on each door in the area announcing that the church will open during certain hours of the afternoon to offer after school activities to “latch key” youth waiting for parents to get home. In addition to the tutoring, congregations can offer everything from positive recreation/sports activities and games to a simple movie and snacks. Anything beats a child being home alone with an idle mind or wandering the streets.
  • Offering assistance or donations to parents of IPS students who need uniforms.

Health – God has called each of us to be good stewards of the resources he has given us, including our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit. Congregations can help meet this goal by:

  • Hosting monthly health fairs that include free screenings and testing for diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, childhood obesity, prostate cancer, lupus, HIV/AIDS and other ailments. The events can also offer positive entertainment from music artists, food, games for kids and physical fitness tips. Fliers can be distributed on doors and cars inviting people in the neighborhood. Officials from the Marion County Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health would be happy to send representatives to help facilitate the fairs.
  • Open the church during afternoons or weekends for aerobics/physical fitness groups that allow people to join each other in a positive environment where they can jam and exercise to good praise music.

Infrastructure – It’s amazing how much better a neighborhood can look and how high the value of a home can increase with just a few cosmetic upgrades. Churches may be helpful in this area by:

  • Noticing an elderly person or single parent in need of assistance in caring for their home and offer to mow their lawn, put fresh paint on their siding or make minor repairs to doors, windows, pillars etc.
  • Leading a neighborhood petition drive to request repairs on decaying sidewalks and streets. Requests can also be made for the city to tear down abandoned structures. It is better to have a vacant lot that can be purchased by a new homebuilder or business than an unsightly structure that serves as a venue for drug deals. Petitions can be sent to the City-County Council member who represents the area or the Department of Public Works.

Crime and drug use –

  • Breaking free of drug addiction is a very difficult journey that should not be taken alone, so a ministry and support group must be established for drug addicts and former dealers serious about leaving a life of crime. The ministry can be operated independently by the church or in collaboration with existing centers that offer affordable drug treatment options. Churches can work with public offenders/prosecutors to request reduced sentences or probation for nonviolent drug offenders who pledge to enroll in their ministry.
  • Church mentorship programs/mini boot camps (for both boys and girls) can be formed to give troubled youth structure, discipline and a moral compass. Programs should teach participants the basics of community service, respect for adults, social etiquette, the value of education and proper interaction with the opposite gender. Various incentives (such as field trips to Kings Island/Kentucky Kingdom) should be offered as rewards for good work and upstanding behavior. Pastors can establish relationships with nearby schools and encourage parents/officials to enroll disruptive youth in their program instead of locking them away in alternative schools or juvenile jail.

Unemployment –

  • Organize a ministry for unemployed individuals that will connect them with potential job opportunities, offer instruction on writing strong resumes, conducting interviews, and presenting a good professional impression. Clients can also be enrolled in brief courses that teach basic computer skills or industrial trades to increase their marketability, and they may select from a closet of donated professional clothing items.

Of course, ministry and evangelism must always be the primary goal of any church. However, often the best way to lead someone to Christ is to share the love that he has for humanity.

Implementation of this plan will require deacons, trustees and lay members to come alongside pastors, many of whom work fulltime jobs in addition to their ministry and might not have the time to personally implement all of the measures listed above.

Let us applaud the congregations and organizations that are far ahead of this column and already making a serious difference in our community. Working together, we can build the kind of safe and prosperous neighborhoods that God, in his infinite love and mercy, has set aside for us. All we have to do is stand up and claim our victory.

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