Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Does $ Solve Everything for a Denomination?

What would happen to your denomination if you received $1.5 billion with strings attached? Would it help you accomplish your mission?

That's the intriguing drama being played out with the Salvation Army and the communities which have received KROC Centers. The original plan from the Joan Kroc estate envisioned 30 KROC Centers around the US as community centers affiliated with the Salvation Army. The receiving community would need to raise half the funds and then be matched by KROC. See the 2006 story from a philanthropy perspective. The NY Times offered this update in 2009 as the economy struggled and some metropolitan areas gave up on the projects for lack of community funding support.

The nearby Augusta GA KROC Center broke ground February 2010 and held their grand opening August 2011. They are situated in the old mill village of Harrisburg. It's a neighborhood in town often in the news for one problem or another. The KROC Center has an impressive building with an incredible array of programming. Here are the early numbers from 2009 regarding the projected impact and later explanations to the public . Despite the media coverage there still seems be be some confusion even today. Questions still remain whether KROC is intended for the local neighborhood, which also houses the Salvation Army, and will meet the needs of the poor of that community. I've noticed many recent Facebook posts for our Augusta branch reminding everyone that SA is a church. That seems to somehow have gotten lost in the excitement. Will folk be as excited as KROC rightfully presses the church aspect of their agenda?

But back to my initial question. How does a ministry/denomination that seems to specialize in serving the poor and those hit by disaster juggle a programming approach to ministry using a community center/recreation approach and keep their focus? The local effort will soon unveil their First Stop social service approach as they gather various partners to meet the needs of the poor. But how will the poor and those needing social services mix with the middle class and those served by the community programming of KROC? Most church ministry attempts at this take a stronger lead with the spiritual component to help integrate various socio-economic or ethnic groups. Of course, we all know that recreation is a great and easy place to gather a great mix of people. Perhaps the program approach taking the lead is a good solution.

Across the U.S., and even here in Augusta, many of us are watching to see how the millions and billions of dollars from the KROC Foundation will impact the mission of the Salvation Army. The next year will be interesting as these answers will soon be revealed for the Salvation Army, our local KROC Center, and Harrisburg.


revscottep said...

This afternoon our Augusta KROC posted if you want to see an example of their great building and resources.

Anonymous said...

Interesting situation. Of course the Salvation Army has received gov't grants with "strings attached" for decades--they've had a long time to sort through that tangle to their own satisfaction.

Some Christians may quibble with the SA's priorities, but the Body of Christ is diverse, with diverse giftings and diverse ministries.

Regarding the social and recreational needs of the community. I just want to underscore the word need.

When I was a young man, I used to pooh-pooh the social aspects of congregational life. I used to say "Koinonia is more than coffee and donuts before church." And I was right, as far as it went.

Socializing and recreation have always been essential features of church life. And I do mean always. And the social and recreational aspects of life are genuine needs.

"I was naked and you clothed me. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I couldn't afford childcare, and you built a Rec Center for my boys."

There is only one Church in any city, including Atlanta: the Church of Jesus Christ. The Salvation Army Rec Center helps reduce crime and it's attendant evils, which allows the Pentecostal folks to focus on its ministry in the spirit, the Calvinist folks on its ministry of the Word, and the Methodist folks on its--whatever it is we Methodists do.

BTW, I've been following you on Networked Blogs for about a month.