• Will Spink
    Senior Pastor
  • Wyketa Shipman
    Executive Assistant
  • Ron Clegg
    Associate Pastor, Discipleship
  • Shannon Clark
    Administrative Assistant
  • James Parker
    Chief Musician
  • Peter Render
    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Youth & Families Intern
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
  • Derrick Harris
    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
  • Angela Sierk
    Director, Children's Ministry
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director, Nursery
  • Robert Blevins
    Director, Community Development
  • Janice Crowson
    Director, Facilities/Finance
  • Daniel Brown
    Print & Digital Media Specialist
  • General Contact
    For all other purposes
Contact Us Site Map

How Much Do You Care?

How Much Do You Care?

Growing up in a small town and attending a small country church where my father was the pastor had its ups and downs. One positive was that we had a relationship with every family that lived within five miles from our house. On the other hand, there were so few families that we didn’t have enough players to organize our weekly neighborhood football game! Over the years, I moved to bigger cities and attended larger churches. However, the lesson that I learned from that small country church was that community makes a significant impact on your life.

I’ve discovered that my title of “Director of Community Development” at Southwood sounds vague, open- ended, and even a little intimidating to some. What is Community Development? And how in the world do we do it? A sense of community means different things to different people. There are different types of communities, such as neighborhoods, social groups, home school networks, and work environments. The common thread through all communities is the potential for life giving, meaningful relationships.

“And when we discover brokenness in the people and systems in our communities, God invites us to play a small role in restoration”

The relationships in the communities in which God places us give us the chance to listen and learn from each other and also to share resources. Community can help us get through a rough day or make our celebrations that much sweeter. And when we discover brokenness in the people and systems in our communities, God invites us play a small role in restoration. That’s what we mean by Community Development.

In January we hosted our annual Express Grace Conference with the theme “Moving Toward Shalom: Transforming Lives and Restoring Communities.” Michael Rhodes and Brian Fikkert challenged us to think about Community Development through a lens of long-term engagement that goes beyond volunteerism and support of ministry partners and stretches into our personal and professional lives. They talked about the difference between a soup kitchen verses a pot luck approach. With the soup kitchen approach, we might get into our cars, drive to another part of town and volunteer with a program or ministry in order to help someone we don’t know. While meeting short-term relief needs is important, in the absence of relationships we run the risk of treating people as objects of our benevolent mercy rather than fellow image bearers with untapped abilities and skill sets.

Here’s an example of a potluck approach. I used to teach at an inner- city school in Chattanooga. During my first year, Mrs. Jennings became my mentor. She was entering her twenty-fifth year of teaching and had grown up in the neighborhood. To say that she was respected and loved was an understatement. At the end of my first semester, she gave me some advice that has stuck with me all these years. She explained how the kids wouldn’t care how much I knew until they knew how much I cared, and that it would take a long time for the students to believe that I truly cared about them. So I began to show up. As their coach, I spent time traveling on the road, tutoring them, stopping by their homes when they were acting up, and attending family members’ funerals. Over time, deep relationships began that continue until this day. Because of our friendship, I had a deeper understanding of their needs and challenges and could point them to resources. I could also use my social capital to help them get jobs and further their education. Not only did I help them, but our relationships shaped me, as well.

Again, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And this takes time. One key to Community Development is investing time in relationships. This requires listening, learning, and just showing up. We can do this in the context of our ministry partners. But we can also do this with the people that God has placed in our everyday lives, such as neighbors in difficult marriages, college students struggling with loneliness, and co-workers making an idol out of success. We can listen, learn, and show up with intentionality, and through these actions we bring restoration into those communities. At the same time, God molds and shapes us and deepens our walk with Him.

As we think about where God is calling us to be active, here are some of the questions that we can ask: How am I building community right where I am? Are there people that I know who are hurting? Am I being sensitive to the Holy Spirit to show me where I can be active in my neighborhood? God calls us to be intentional about cultivating relationships in our communities.

In March, Southwood has the privilege of hosting the annual Mercy Conference, which is an event sponsored by Mission to North America (MNA), the domestic missions agency of the PCA. The name of the conference this year is R.E.A.C.H. (Reconciling, Equipping, Affirming, Connecting, and Helping). Just like our Express Grace Conference, this event is part of a long-term strategy to mobilize Southwood toward Community Development. Our prayer is for every member to participate in bringing restoration in their community, whether that be through involvement with ministry partners or in your professional or personal lives. Come to continue the conversation of how to express grace and love your neighbor in the areas where God calls you to engage.

The Mercy Conference will begin Friday evening, March 29, with dinner and Pastor Randy Nabors, founding pastor of New City Fellowship and The New City Network, challenging us to think about how community touches every part of our life.

Saturday, March 30, is a full day of workshops, large group gatherings, and network opportunities. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to listen and learn from practitioners within our own denomination.