Pioneer Ministry: Start with the assets of your context, not the needs

Do you start with what your community needs, or the assets it already has?


There are a lot of similarities between the practice of pioneer ministry and community development principles.

A key stage in growing new forms of church has to do with loving and serving those in the community you’re looking to engage. Whether that’s a geographical community or a cultural grouping or network, the approach is the same – to come alongside those in the community and find ways to honestly and authentically love and serve.

The problem with needs

When looking for ways to love and service, it’s really easy to straight away step into a needs analysis of your context. Whether we realise it or not, especially in particularly socially or economically deprived contexts it’s easy to begin looking for problems and issues which need to be dealt with.

The problem with this approach is that it leads to a fairly negative view of your context. The aim becomes identifying how help or intervention is needed, rather than affirming and identifying what good is already there.

Asset-Based Community Development

In recent years, community development workers have begun to innovate new asset-based approaches to community work, which focus on the strengths of a community and its members, rather than on the negative.

ABCD is a set of values and principles which:

  • Identifies and makes visible the health-enhancing assets in a community
  • Sees citizens and communities as the co-producers of health and well-being, rather than the recipients of services
  • Promotes community networks, relationships and friendships that can provide caring, mutual help and empowerment
  • Identifies what has the potential to improve health and well-being
  • Supports individuals’ health and well-being through self- esteem, coping strategies, resilience skills, relationships, friendships, knowledge and personal resources
  • Empower communities to control their futures and create tangible resources such as services, funds and buildings (source: A Glass Half Full)
This sounds a lot like some of the values and principles behind pioneer ministry. A lot of pioneers are already actively identifying and affirming the gifts and talents already present in their communities.

Could you draw on some of the principles and theory behind Asset-based Community Development in order to help you better serve your community?

Some online ABCD resources


How do you affirm and work with the strengths of your community? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment.

About the author: James Henley
James Henley
James has been with The Lab since 2007 and leads our team. He's an ordained pioneer minister in the Church in Wales.