"How To Be A Good Farmer-Even In A City: Creating A Community-Based Ministry" Appeared In The January - March 2011 Issue Of Elder's Digest. This Article Proposed "Farming Commandments" Which Systematized Jesus' Ministry Method Into 10 Intentional Action Steps For Our Time1 And Served As An Introduction To This Series Of Elder's Digest Articles That Would Unpack These Commandments In More Detail.2 This Article The Eighth In The Series, Focuses On The Tenth "Farming Commandment."
The members of the Newport, Tennessee, Seventh-day
Adventist Church wanted their church to
make a difference. They decided to partner with their community
to bring comfort and joy to abused and hurting children.
Newport Church member Carole Colburn directs an outreach
ministry called “It’s My Very Own” (IMVO). Fifteen women
from churches of various denominations in the community join
Newport members at the Adventist Church on Monday mornings
to produce “Bags of Love” for the IMVO ministry. The IMVO
project is done in partnership with Child Protective Services in
their neighboring 10 counties.
These ladies lovingly make beautiful quilts and large, colorful
cloth bags for the quilts. They also add toys, stuffed animals,
personal care items (comb, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste),
books, etc. The bags are then delivered to Child Protective Services.
When children are forcefully removed from their homes,
they generally can’t take anything with them to foster homes.
Receiving a “Bag of Love” from Child Protective Services gives
them something to call their very own. Each quilt has a tag that
“It’s My Very Own” Bags of Love
Made for you by the hearts and hands of the people of your
Sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church
So far, the ladies have made over 1,600 quilts and bags.
Because of confidentiality issues, they may never know most
of the reactions to their loving work. But some statements have
reached their ears: “These bags make such a difference to the
kids. They come into our office scared to death. But the minute
they are given these bags that are their very own, it’s like Christmas.”
“Even the teenage boys come into the office with their
quilts thrown over their shoulders.” A foster parent telephoned
Carole Colburn and said: “I’m so glad to reach someone who
is involved in making these quilts and bags. Just recently we
were given two children to keep—a boy, age 6, and a girl, age 9.
When they came to us, they brought these bags with them. And
now they will hardly let the quilts out of their sight. Even though
the weather is warm, every night they insist on sleeping with
them. And the little boy is apparently really missing his father—
because he calls his teddy bear ‘Daddy’ and sleeps with him
every night.” Over and over, this foster mother repeated, “You
don’t know what a difference these bags make to these children.
What a difference, what a difference! Now they have something
they can call their very own.”
Carole commented, “Any good we’re doing here can only
be credited to the Lord. He has sent the right people to help and
has given us a very rewarding little mission with the needed
church and community support. We just pray it will mean souls
saved in the kingdom.” Some of the ladies from the community
who are involved in IMVO are attending the Newport church
regularly. Carole rejoices that the Lord impressed Barbara Neher in Kentucky, USA, to start the IMVO work several years
ago, and to share it through ASI (Adventist-laymen’s Services
This touching IMVO story leads right into Farming Commandment
10: “Thou shalt look for ways that God is already
working in thy community. Celebrate, acknowledge, cooperate.”
Since I presented this commandment in the “How to be
A Good Farmer—Even in a City” article in the January–March
2011 issue of Elder’s Digest, I have thought of a better way to
express Commandment 10: “Thou shalt look for ways that God
is already working in thy community. Thou shalt join Him by
collaborating with community organizations.”
From a leadership standpoint, what is the difference between
“cooperate” and collaborate”?
To “cooperate” implies “co-operating”—operating at the
same time but not necessarily together. It could imply operating
in a hierarchal mode—at different levels—one person above
or below another. Also, it could be territorial: “Don’t cross the
line into my territory!” “This is my portion of the pie, and that is
your portion of the pie. Who gets the bigger portion?”
To “collaborate,” on the other hand, implies “co-laboring”—
working together for a common goal. There is no hierarchy with
one person above the other. Organizationally, it is like a “flat
circle”—with everyone working together at the same level—no
one above or below the other. For example: “How can we work
together (combine our resources and people power) to make
one better pie?”3
The Newport Church “collaborates” with various entities in
its community: churches of other denominations and Child Protective
Services. They work together for a common goal—and
combine their resources and people power to accomplish the
goal of bringing comfort and joy to abused children in their community.
Together they accomplish more than each could alone.
It is encouraging to realize that your church need not work
alone in ministering to your community. When your church
partners with the community, you build bridges of friendship
and trust. You increase your “social capital.”4
If you follow
Farming Commandment 8 and become aware of and network
with organizations in your community, you will be more likely
to spring into action in collaboration with these organizations.
Here are some possible types of relationships in your community
through which you can partner and collaborate:
• Public schools
• Community coalitions
• Community organizing coalitions
• Public boards and committees
• National organizations
• Government, urban/suburban church partnerships
What other community relationships can you add to the list?
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13). The
purpose of salt is to mix with other ingredients and enhance
their flavor. Salt does more good when it is out of the saltshaker
and collaborating with other ingredients. Are your church members
following the example of the Newport Church and getting
out of the church “saltshaker” and collaborating with the “ingredients”
of your community to transform it for the better—in
The last article in the series will discuss a bonus “Farming Commandment”—the
1 The 10 Farming Commandments are: (1) Thou shalt study Jesus’ ministry method and pray for…; (2) Thou shalt assess the resources in thy church; (3) Thou shalt establish a Social Action Leadership Team (SALT); (4) Thou shalt choose and narrow down thy territory; (5) Thou shalt do a demographic analysis on the chosen territory; (6) Thou shalt drive or walk around the chosen territory and note the homes, businesses, churches, people, etc.; (7) Thou shalt talk to community leaders and business people to discover community needs as they see them; (8) Thou shalt earn “Social Capital;” (9) Thou shalt develop a church strategic plan for church community involvement based on the felt community needs thou has discovered and the resources and dreams of thy church; (10) Thou shalt look for ways that God is already working in thy community. Celebrate, acknowledge, cooperate. . . . and an eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not ignore Commandments 1-10, and thou shalt remember to reap where thou hast farmed and keep what thou doest reap (disciple, preserve the harvest!).
2 So far, these follow-up articles have appeared in Elder’s Digest: (1) “Once a Month Jesus Comes and Holds My Hand . . .” (October–December 2011); (2) “Our Community Does Not Know Us . . .” (January–March 2012); (3) “Help, Lord! I’ve Been Asked to Plant a Church!” (July–September 2012); (4) “As I Walked Around and Looked Carefully. . .” (January–March 2013); (5) “You’re the First Church That Ever Asked . . .” (July–September 2013); (6) “We Can’t Afford Not to Have Someone Like This in Our Community . . .” (October–December 2013); and (7) “Strategic Ministry Planning So Your Church Will Make a Difference” (January–March 2014). To access these articles online, go to www.sabbathschoolpersonalministries.org. Click on Adventist Community Services, and “Articles & Media.” To access a comprehensive curriculum about community outreach, click on “Resources” and “IICM Community Services and Urban Ministry Certification Program Curriculum.” For a direct link, go to www.sabbathschoolpersolministries.org/acs_iicm
3 Explanations of “cooperate” and “collaborate” are adapted from presentations by Sung Kwon, Executive Director, Adventist Community Services, North American Division.
As explained in a previous article in this series (“We Can’t Afford Not to Have
Someone Like This in Our Community . . .” [October–December 2013]),
“Social Capital consists of positive, productive relationships which are just
as valuable as money in the bank.” The eighth “Farming Commandment”
emphasizes mingling/networking with community organizations so that your
church can form positive relationships in the community. Networking obtains
“Social Capital.” The tenth “Farming Commandment” emphasizes springing
into action (acting on your strategic ministry plan—ninth commandment)
and accomplishing community transformation in partnership/collaboration
with organizations with whom you have positive relationships. Collaborating
spends the “Social Capital.” Commandments 8 and 10 overlap somewhat.
May-Ellen Colón is Assistant Director of the General Conference
Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department and Director
of Adventist Community Services International in Silver Spring,