Originally written by Angela Bleier:
What a privilege to attend the five-day training on Neighborhood Transformation (NT) offered recently by Team Expansion! The concept of Neighborhood Transformation is akin to Community Health Evangelism (CHE). The “health” of community is defined holistically in terms of spiritual, physical, economic, social, and emotional well-being. While CHE focuses on international rural and urban transformation, NT is specific to urban North America. Stan Rowland (left in photo) and Ted Cates (right in photo) facilitated the training. Stan is the founder of NT and CHE, and Ted has successfully implemented several NT programs in Tucson Arizona over the last four years.
This training turned my strategy for missions upside down! Instead of doing things for the poor, NT advocates working with the poor, empowering them to do for themselves and others. The biggest take-aways for me were the eye-opening principles that NT champions. Because all people have worth in God’s eyes and because God has blessed all people with skills, abilities, and talents, the goal of NT is to help individuals in poor neighborhoods identify these assets and match them with the needs of that community. As community members develop dignity, confidence, and a heart of compassion, cohesive neighborhoods form which are prosperous and self-sustaining. Transformation happens from the inside out; as people are transformed, so then is their neighborhood. Consistent with Jonathan Training, those initiating the NT work themselves out of a job. As leaders rise from within, the torch is passed, giving ownership completely over to the community.
This sustained transformation is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the NT process, the Gospel is proclaimed as opportunities arise, “and they do arise,” says Stan. Those initiating the NT intentionally foster an atmosphere rich in evangelism and discipleship. In addition to sharing Jesus with people casually through word and deed, they offer training to the community on spiritual topics, as well as on many practical subjects fostering self, family, and community development. As the Holy Spirit renovates hearts, holistic transformation occurs.
My only concern is that NT initiated by less spiritually-minded people could easily become a humanitarian effort. It would be easy to eliminate or dilute the spiritual component. Without the power of the Holy Spirit transforming hearts, any initial neighborhood transformation would be superficial and short-lived in my opinion.
If fully implemented, the principles of NT can enhance church planting efforts in any field. Whether your strategy places priority on evangelism or NT, restoring people’s self worth by focusing on assets instead of needs and caring for people holistically are beneficial to establishing credibility among any people group. In particular, its impact may be most notabe in closed countries or in any difficult field where preaching the Gospel is restricted or prohibited.
With Kairos laying the foundation of a Biblical worldview and with Jonathan Training equipping leaders to plant churches, NT is one methodology for accomplishing church growth. Knowledge of NT or CHE, depending on your field, is something I believe every Christian should include in his/her toolbox of resources for reaching the poor. Even if you never implement a formal NT/CHE program, the principles alone will revolutionize your ministry.
For more information on NT or CHE, please visit these websites: