Using Environmental Scans for Ministry

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Environmental Scan Assignment for our Urban/Parachurch course

I'd like to invite youth and young adult workers to do some homework this week: Study your community. If you do, you could do one or all of the following:

    1) affirm, inform or debunk what you're doing

    2) affirm, inform or debunk what you think people need

    3) affirm, inform or debunk your plans for the future

This week Crown's Urban/Parachurch Ministry students are utilizing an "environmental scan" to decipher what ministry needs might be prevelant in specific communities within the Twin Cities. Each student has selected a community within the I-494/I-694 highway loop that surrounds Minneapolis and St.Paul region.

An Environmental Scan is essentially a researched-overview of a community (i.e. a study of one's environment/surroundings). This week, our students are scanning for data relating to population, economy, education, ethnicities, religious affiliations, infrastructure, crime, projections, etc. in order to glean a solid demographic and ethnographic survey of their selected communities. Students will then research the various service providers (e.g. agencies, organizations, churches, corporations, funds, etc.), noting the target population groups in their selected community. From this research, students will be able to determine if the demographic trends are being well-served, under-served, or mis-served by service providers. The final step is to make a recommendation as to how a local organization/church could approach ministry needs in their selected community (including partnerships or new initiatives).

It is possible to take the environment in which we live and/or work for granted. Communities have a tendency to change over time and we have a tendency sometimes to keep biased or skewed conclusions. Sometimes we assume we know what is happening in our communities without actually confirming whether those assumptions are true. Some quick research could affirm, inform or debunk our perspectives and approaches.

Through our research we could discover that other churches or agencies are already effectively pursuing certain ministry care with which we could partner rather than compete. Or perhaps we could discover that our assumptions that certain targeted populations (e.g. addictive adolescents or unwed teenage girls) were being well-served when, in fact, they could be under-served or even mis-served (by an organization with values counter to our own). Such a discovery could give impetus to a local church's mission and future planning.

A simple Environmental Scan could affirm our understandings, inform ways that we need to change our approaches, or even debunk some of the methods we've employed or were considering in the year ahead.

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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