SAN DIEGO (BP)–To really understand the needs of a city, you have to talk to the people who deal with those needs on a daily basis.
That’s the idea behind a series of meetings between San Diego church leaders and city officials that began last October and will lead into “Faith in Action Xtreme” — an extended period of service by churches to the community beginning this Easter.
Throughout 2008, 33 Southern Baptist churches in San Diego County participated in Faith in Action, an effort to serve their communities by meeting the needs of San Diegans. In a county-wide Faith in Action Sunday last April, many churches postponed morning services and went out to serve in local neighborhoods, gathering together that evening to praise God for how He had worked.
Mike Carlisle, executive director of Vision San Diego, part of the North American Mission Board’s Strategic Focus Cities initiative, said Faith in Action Sunday “got us thinking, ‘How do we expand on the efforts of these churches so that it becomes more than just a one-time event? How can we build on the things that happened this year, looking toward a greater goal of true city transformation?'”
The answer, Carlisle said, is Faith in Action Xtreme, an opportunity to mobilize local churches and volunteers from around the nation to assist in the areas San Diego officials have identified as some of the city’s greatest needs.
“Our city and county leaders face these needs every day. They’re our best resource for understanding how we can work together to impact San Diego,” said Vision San Diego’s Sam Williams, who directs the Faith in Action Xtreme initiative.
Looking toward the expanded emphasis on service, the San Diego Southern Baptist Association decided to seek opportunities to meet with county leaders in order to better understand local needs.
On Dec. 2, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders told pastors and leaders that now, more than ever, churches have an opportunity to join civic leaders to ensure a healthy city. His presentation followed meetings with San Diego County’s chief administrative officer and the city’s assistant executive police chief.
Future meetings will include other government, law, business and education leaders. Each speaker is asked to answer these two questions: “What is your vision of a healthy San Diego?” and “What are three impossible problems that keep you from achieving that vision?”
“As our leaders share their vision for a healthy San Diego, we as local churches begin to understand how we can be part of the solution,” Williams said. “And because we know a God who hears and answers prayer, we can intercede about the obstacles they share with us.”
Specific Faith in Action Xtreme projects are in development now, and several areas have been identified where the needs of the city intersect with the purpose of the church. Those areas include underachieving school children; mentoring youth in the juvenile justice system; assisting children and families in the foster care system; meeting the needs of military families; and assisting with elder care for more than 22,000 seniors in the social services system.
“The needs we’re identifying are things we can’t say no to, and we won’t,” Williams said. “The church is being invited to be a partner in meeting the greatest spiritual and societal needs of the county.”
Meredith Day and MaryJo McNeill serve on Vision San Diego’s communication team. To be a part of Vision San Diego, visit www.visionsandiego.com; call 1-877-817-4777; or e-mail [email protected] For more information about NAMB’s Strategic Focus Cities effort, visit www.namb.net/sfc.