Resources For Your Ministry: Community Development

Community Development: What Is It Exactly?

Terrell CarterRev. Terrell Carter
Director of FOUNDATIONS in St. Louis


Community Development is a buzz word that has been circulating in our collective vocabulary for several years.  But what exactly is it?  Community development is a broad term applied to the practices of civic and religious leaders, activists, involved citizens, and professionals to improve various aspects of local communities by empowering individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to effect change in their own communities.  But how can churches and their members find out about community development efforts in their local areas?

There are many organizations and websites specifically geared to helping congregations identify and create opportunities to engage their communities as part of their mission.

For example, the Christian Community Development Association,, exists specifically to provide a network of community development training and opportunities for churches in the United States.  Following the example of Jesus, they are committed to the work of reconciliation, as well as seeking the Shalom of communities and world.  Founded on the principles of being church-based, actively listening and participating with local communities, and reconciling people to God, and people to people, they seek to inspire, train, and connect Christians who seek to bear witness to the Kingdom of God by reclaiming and restoring under-resourced communities.  They provide multiple books, videos, digital information, and national face-to-face training opportunities for people who are interested in learning and performing community development first hand.

World Impact,, started as a Bible Club ministry in Watts, California.  Today, it has expanded into a nationwide ministry, including a campus in Wichita, Kansas.  World Impact seeks to address issues found in most communities.  Specifically, poverty that adversely affects today’s families, systemic injustice that places unequal burdens upon people of varying social classes and races, the loss of hope that is experienced due to alienation from God and other people, and the rising rate of broken families.  World Impact does this by providing and coordinating resources that address the physical needs of communities, such as Thrift Stores, community-based schools and after school tutoring services, community-based medical and dental services, job training, housing, summer camps, and church planting.

Beyond Charity

In addition to ministries, there are multiple books and resources available that give good information about the principles of Community Development.  The foundational text for Christian Community Development, Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development written by John Perkins, is a basic introduction to the field.  In it Dr. Perkins outlines a philosophy for ministry among the American poor, emphasizing the role of God's people in moving beyond charity to uplifting ministry based on building relationships and program development within communities.  His philosophy entails a vision for ministry that goes beyond charity, how the gospel bridges theology with specific practices of ministry, and advice for those considering a role in this type of ministry.