Last Thursday, I travelled up from London to Leeds to join a group of over forty church leaders, community workers, youth workers and volunteers. We were gathering to discuss two reports written by CUF and Livability: Fullness of Life Together, which explores different approaches to bringing about change in communities, comparing a service delivery model with two asset-based approaches; and Building Kingdom Communities, a theological reflection on the themes of the first report.

Along with a wonderful sandwich lunch, we were given valuable time to discuss the real-life practicalities of implementing the different approaches.

The conversation was thought-provoking and inspiring. There was a great deal of reflection on how churches were using the service delivery model in their community activities, and the effect of this on their ability to build relationships with people. The asset-based approaches, of co-production and asset-based community development, seemed to really resonate with what people were wanting to do and see in their communities.

"The key to helping people who are isolated and vulnerable is the building of mutually-beneficial relationships."

A particular highlight for me was hearing from Jon Franklin, a Local Area Coordinator and church planter in Swansea. He found that a core concept employed by Local Area Coordinators could also meaningful for his church: that the key to helping people who are isolated and vulnerable is the building of natural, sustainable, mutually-beneficial relationships.


Jon suggested that from the very start, we are asking the wrong question: “What’s wrong with you and how can we fix you?” Instead, what we should be asking is: “What matters to you and how can we help you to achieve this? ”Within the service delivery model, there is simply no space for relationships of this kind; a service is provided, top-down, in a short-space of time, to ‘solve a problem’. In contrast, if you ‘come along side’ a vulnerable person, you can learn not only their needs, but their strengths, and facilitate them to make real, long-lasting change in their lives.

A return to neighbourliness where communities are once more able to meet their own needs will certainly require a radical change in approach, and this conversation in Leeds felt very much a positive starting point for that change.

Both the Fullness of Life Together report and the theological reflection paper, Building Kingdom Communities are available for download.