About the discipline
Religious groups play both upfront and behind-the-scenes roles in community and leadership development.
Community and leadership development: Many religions place value on community, inter-connectedness and cooperation. Religious leaders can be rallying forces for neighborhood change, be outspoken for and against development issues, and may parlay their religious leadership skills and support into political or community leadership. Similarly, community and political leaders may be guided in their decision-making and policy by their religious beliefs.
Local involvement: Understanding the religious climate of your community and the resources religious groups can provide may aid in community decision making and sound policy choices. Effective community development and building rely on understanding economic and social patterns, which may be related to religion. Religious groups may be aware of community needs as far as poverty or resources due to outreach to underserved communities.
Many local activists based in churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious affiliations work to improve neighborhoods, cities and individuals’ lives. Known as faith-based or congregation-based community organizing, such groups often partner with secular organizers, unions and civic and neighborhood groups. Some use aggressive tactics and are highly political, yet most are nonpartisan. Experts say that in 2000, at least 3,500 congregations and 500 union locals, public schools, PTAs and neighborhood groups worked on issues including jobs, public safety, schools, housing and access to health care. Researchers say most American cities have at least one of these networks, which provide training and support and help set local agendas. One of the largest, California-based Pacific Institute for Community Organizing has affiliates pushing 50 projects in 150 cities in 16 states, involving an estimated 1,000 congregations and a million families.
Cooperation: Speaking with religious groups about a community’s needs can be used in addition to traditional approaches, such as designing economic models, demographic analysis, mapping, fiscal analysis, technological adoption and other tools. People of faith often enjoy engaging in public conversation, critiquing prevailing norms and cooperatively imagining a community future. Working with religious individuals and networks, understanding their resources, and being aware of religious demographics is useful when trying to strengthen community-based groups and nonprofits, or foster local entrepreneurship and business growth.
Religious groups can also be helpful when developing community emergency management programs. Many groups have response systems in place to help others in case of emergency. Faiths such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) hold self-reliance as a spiritual tenet, believing that preparing for the future dispels fear. Individuals and families are urged to prepare for emergencies spiritually, financially, by storing a year’s supply of food, and having basic emergency and first-aid supplies available.
- “Is it God or Just the Data that Moves in Mysterious Ways? How Well-Being Research may be Mistaking Faith for Virtue” by James Benjamin Schuurmans-Stekhoven. Social Indicators Research. 100, no. 2 (2011): 313
- “Faith and fragile states: why the development community needs religion” by Seth Kaplan. Harvard International Review, March 22, 2009.
- “African American Religion: The Struggle for Community Development in a Southern City” by Said Sewell/State University of West Georgia. The Journal of Southern Religion, 2001.
- “Media, religion and democratic participation: community communication in Zimbabwe and Norway” by Knut Lundby. Sage Publications, Inc., 1997.
- “Power, conflict, and spirituality: A qualitative study of faith-based community organizing” by B. Christens, D.L. Jones and P.W. Speer. Qualitative Social Research, 9(1), 2008.
- “Toward a community-oriented action research framework for spirituality: Community psychological and theological perspectives” by P.R. Dokecki, R.T. O’Gorman and J.R. Newbrough. Journal of Community Psychology, 29, 497-518, 2001.
- “Dietary change through African American churches: Baseline results and program description of the Eat for Life trial” by K. Resnicow, D.C. Wallace, A. Jackson, A. DiGirolamo, E. Odom, T. Wang, W. Dudley, M. Davis, D. Mitchell and T. Baranowski. Journal of Cancer Education, 15(3):156-163, 2000.
- “Action Research on Leadership for Community Development in West Africa and North America: A Joining of Liberation Theology and Community Psychology” by J. Trout, P.R. Dokecki, J.R. Newbrough and R.T. O’Gorman. Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 129-148, 2003.
- “Taking the Sanctuary to the Streets: Religion, Race, and Community Development in Columbus, Ohio” by Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 594, No. 1, 79-91, 2004.
- “Role of Madrassas (Religious Institutions) in Community Development” by Bushra Akbar, Muhammad Imran, Asma Mustafa, Sidra Tariq, Iram Iqbal and Nazim Hussain(.pdf). Journal of Agriculture & Social Sciences. 1813–2235/2005/01–2–206–207
- “Religious groups roped into IRCCs; 80% of these groups have joined Inter-Racial Confidence Circles, which will be renamed” by Sumathi Selvaretnam. The Straits Times (Singapore), Sept. 7, 2007.
- “When God and Poverty Collide: Exploring the Myths of Faith-sponsored Community Development” by Tanja Winkler. Urban Studies, 45:10 (2008): 2009-2116.
- “Faith-based programs and their influence on homelessness” by B.G. Bass. Family & Community Health, 32:4 (2009) 314-319.
- Development and Religion: Theology and Practice. Matthew Clarke. Northampton, Mass: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2011.
- InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook. Rev. Bud Heckman with Rori Picker Neiss (eds.) Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths, 2008.
- Cuba: Religion, Social Capital, and Development. Adrian H. Hearn Duke. University Press, 2008.
- Religious institutions and faith-based community development corporations: a link between affordable housing and historic preservation in inner city neighborhoods. Andrea Joy Cochrane. Cochrane University of Pennsylvania Libraries, 1996.
- Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development. John M. Perkins. Baker Books, 1993.
- Finding Global Balance: Common Grounds Between the Worlds of Development And Faith. Lucy Keough. World Bank Publications, 2005.
- Human rights, the UN and the Bahá’ís in Iran. Nazila Ghanea-Hercock. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2002.
- “Faith as social capital: Religion and community development in Southern Asia.”Policy Sciences. Springer Netherlands. Volume 33, Numbers 3-4/December, 2000.
- “Relationship Management, Communication, and Socialization: Religious Leaders and Role Emergence in Community Settings: A Case Analysis.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the NCA 94th Annual Convention, TBA, San Diego, CA, Nov 20, 2008
Codes of ethics
- Association for Community Organization and Social Administration – Articles of Association(.pdf)
- American Homeowners Association – Mission Statement
- Economic Development Administration – Mission
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Mission
- First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life
- Journal of Religion & Society
- Sociology of Religion
- Religion, State & Society
- Journal of the American Academy of Religion
- Kwintessential, a London company that offers training to overcome cross-cultural communication problems, verbal and non-verbal.
- Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America – Cultural Competence Primer
Professional associations and faith groups
- Association of Muslim Health Professionals
- Christian Community Health Fellowship
- Family Christian Association of America
- Fellowship of Christian Firefighters
- Firefighters for Christ
- Christian Police Association
- Religion and Diversity in American Society. Haverford College
- Religion, Culture and Society. Michael R. Leming, St. Olaf College