Planning for Comprehensive Christian Community Development
We are going to examine 22 ways that multi-purpose community development initiatives can be built to integrate Christian living concepts within them for the greatest benefits to all the people they might touch. The first two means should be the core objectives of any genuine Christian community development, namely to make it really Christian in effort, and then to create real opportunities for all those people that will be involved.
A Christian effort happens when those involved are focused on meeting the various needs of other people beyond themselves while trusting God to meet their own specific needs as they labor for Jesus sake in the opportunities life presents to them. Opportunities are created for individuals and families when local jobs are created and all a community’s people are fairly rewarded in benefits for their labors while also fairly and reasonably charged for all the things needed for them to live including food, housing, utilities, transportation, personal care, and help from others. Public and private schools don’t normally provide required classes in such development.
Where our multi-purpose development will require land, we can build much integrity into its ownership by placing the title of the ownership into the names of two or more nonprofits, such as a global mission agency and a local church for example, so if one ownership dissolves, the work will go on without major interruption or failure. Some nations will require one or all owners to be native to their own country to be legal
The next step is to insure the ongoing validity of land title ownership with the best method available in that locale. Where it is available, title insurance provides the most comprehensive title protection coverage. An abstract of title is considered the next best insurance by some experts. Land in some nations may not be available for private ownership even by nonprofits. Where land is available, a thorough title investigation is warranted wherever title insurance is not available.
Whatever kind of multi-purpose Christian community development we might be planning, we should design that development to meet the objectives of those people throughout the community it will serve. This necessitates getting their input through a local project team that surveys these local interests and conveys them to the development’s designers, planners, and funders. A brief one page questionnaire, for example, has been done to help orphan care ministries spell out their objectives in serving their communities and is available from us free upon request.
It is possible and desirable to provide some level of true community ownership to a development such as a greenhouse farm for example. One way to do this is through a corporation ownership that actually conveys shares of its corporate common stock ownership to individuals that labor in the facility at some specified rate such as one share per 100 hours of labor along with their wages and food earned. This measure can definitely build a real sense of ownership among people that have been exploited by others in the past. And local investing can be promoted by selling shares under community established terms to both the laborers and small local investors.
Since excessive real estate taxes can eventually undermine the long term growth and economic health of most any community, innovative measures can be taken to minimize the chances of this happening. A ceiling on the local real estate tax assessment rate such as 1.5% of market value annually can be legislated, and tax levies can be made subject to private appraisal estimates. Land can sometimes be placed in timber or tax-sheltered reserve with only mobile dwellings placed upon it. Some people have paid four times a fair tax assessment on their home because their assessment rate and assessed valuation were both wrongly doubled.
Both temporary and permanent low cost community housing have been provided in many developments through cooperative efforts of government agencies and private investors working together. Keeping rents affordable, good facility management, and profits reasonable is to be sure a challenge. Using local ownership for such development can keep the facts above board and honest. Affordable shelter can be the beginning of poverty reduction in many places and a ministry opportunity for some outgoing local churches.
To really utilize a community’s local labor force and local natural resources can be a blessing to foster the development and growth of local small businesses, especially when relying on the local capital and expertise of its retired people from all walks of life instead of on government subsidies and big business deals. Innovation is one important key to making this happen. Fairness and ownership are two more keys. A local community development trust might be formed and useful for this endeavor as well as to convey community ownership.
A given small community might take certain measures to promote the fair rate of exchange for various products, kinds of labor, and services. The public posting of both prices charged by competing providers and a community bulletin board of local human needs could be helpful in many ways. When everyone’s neighbors interests become more important than their own, things can really start to change.
The development of a community owned and operate greenhouse farm can yield considerable income for local workers, local affordable fish and vegetables, food supplements and other crops for national and global markets, job training in horticulture, renewable energy, and appropriate construction technologies, and community outreach ministry training for the community. It is hard to find something better to jump start a local economy in severe poverty with. Our RMSM reports on greenhouse farm construction, management, and crops are available from us upon request.
Whatever local job training can be developed within a given community ministry’s facility, efforts can be taken to integrate this training with any other public, private, and family education efforts that may be underway locally to maximize the total local benefits.
An existing community Christian ministry can take it upon themselves to offer sound nondenominational teaching in spiritual matters including the subjects of discipleship training, community wide outreach strategy, community development ministry, and spiritual community formation to the community and region through on-site classes and distance learning, and perhaps give special help for homeschoolers to a broader extent. Some courses are available from this ministry free upon request.
The expansion of an existing community water supply or creation of a new one can be included within some development plans such as for greenhouses. A community water supply that is made available for free or a very low rate can make a critical advance against poverty and disease while showing genuine Christian care as well.
When community greenhouse farms are developed, the facility managers can utilize the benefits of advance crop contracts to lock in attractive prices for their higher value fish, vegetable, and food supplement crops to aid them in crop selection and income planning. Small scale freeze-drying and other equipment can give the community more attractive national and global product markets to choose from. And some food supplement crops can be harvested every 4 to 6 weeks the year around. Some help is available from us for this.
Providing a community owned renewable electric power plant that uses free and/or local waste fuels is a natural move for community economic development in boosting the local businesses, schools, medical facilities, farming, and community utilities that it serves when the cost savings are passed on. The energy sources to be used must be selected as the lowest cost renewable energy technologies suitable for each specific site served.
A community owned local fuel production enterprise can be built to benefit all the community’s fuel users. There are many source materials for ethanol and biodiesel fuels. The challenge here is to use the lowest cost local waste materials or easily producible source materials for which small scale lower technology fuel processing equipment is available at a reasonable cost. Home grown and sun dried algae may even be a possible fuel source.
India is developing a national initiative to assist its farmers in producing blue green algae in 2.5 inch deep farm ponds for use in replacing expensive commercial fertilizers. When production is complete, the pond is drained and the algae is sun dried and collected for use. Some may be pump able for certain irrigation applications. Local ingenuity spells out lower production costs and higher profit margins.
For long term sustainable community development, we are needing to monitor our own land management, facility management, and natural resource use as well as that of our adjacent land users since our actions affect our neighbors’ welfare due to the nature of many substances we may commonly use or discard.
For crop production, we wish to avoid any dependence on expensive agricultural inputs including hybrid plant seed and hybrid fish growing stock. It is possible to graft our own fruit trees and we suggest at least 12 different crops for greenhouse operations. We pay dearly for getting any technical expertise from large commercial sources.
The provision of a locally owned micro-finance enterprise is one solution for increasing the local development capital that is readily available to poor people. There are other avenues as well, such as using retired individuals from the community or region to finance local home and enterprise building at low or no interest charges. Incentives could be offered for this benefit.
It is wise to block any ongoing attempts of well-funded individuals, governmental agencies, or corporations from the total control of or exploitation of local people and local resources through their deceptive use of taxation, use permits, zoning, and the like. This is one reason that the community ownership of local resources and enterprises through community development trusts and other means is wise, because we then have more clout and funds to fight such things when we are joined together.
Robert M. Service Ministries [email protected] 319-830-1809 www.rmsm.org