“…. How can churches address an issue (poverty) that is a central theme in the Bible and actually make a difference in the lives of those who are poor? ”
Through sociological research, readings, conversations, program evaluations, and program site visits, we will identify ways for churches to best address poverty (increasing income and promoting social mobility).
The first part of our project will involve identifying United Methodist churches in the metropolitan Indianapolis area that have social mobility as a goal in their programs and practices. For us, a commitment to social mobility is defined as an effort to increase income, increase educational attainment or performance, or improve the physical or social living environment of poor families. Dr. Tamara Leech will develop a research strategy to identify these churches.
The second part of our project is to build a team of 2-3 churches committed to social mobility to jointly implement an evidence-based practice. We will visit three promising evidence-based programs: Opportunity NYC Family Rewards, LIFT, and the Family Independence Initiative. Together, the churches will decide which of these initiatives to implement.
The third part of the plan is to evaluate the effectiveness of these practices/strategies/programs in these churches. Dr. Leech will design the program evaluation specific to the evidence-based practice identified in the second phase. Once the evaluation is completed, we will have identified best practices for churches to adopt in addressing poverty.
The fourth part of the plan involves a working document/paper/book that will explore how issues of poverty intersect with theology, ecclesiology, the Bible, and liturgy. These are some questions that will be explored: (1) how can the liturgy of a church encourage engagement with issues related to poverty?, (2) What does the Bible say about money, the poor, and social mobility?, (3) Should alleviating poverty be a primary focus of churches?, and (4) How does one's theology encourage or discourage engagement with social justice?