A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry, is a selection of writings addressing the issues of church planting – issues that used to be urban in nature but have now migrated into the suburbs. I selected this book to read because I was involved in a church plant in the southwestern suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas that did not appear to ‘succeed’ very well, and I was intrigued as to how the methods compared to my current Kansan church’s efforts to connect with less materially privileged areas of the city.
John Fuder and Noel Castellanos, editors, collected writings for this textbook on practical community development from the people down in the trenches who have seen the problems, particularly with racial, cultural, and economic barriers that inhibit effective ministry . Along with the issues that are raised, strategies to attack these problems to break down barriers offer hope in how to address the needs of our neighbors. The community is viewed in a holistic manner in addressing needs.
The book is divided into four parts. The first part revolves around critical issues of church planting, such as the importance of exegeting the community and the benefits of collaborating with other community groups. The second part presents various church-planting models to reach different ethnic groups and provides hospitality methods. The third part discusses ministering to suburban needs – diversity and unity, multi-ethnic communities, and poverty and luxury side by side. The fourth part is titled ‘parachurch ministries’ with outreach models for specific types of people. Each chapter concludes with reflective questions and recommended reading. How-to guidance and lessons learned are sprinkled throughout the book.
This selection of writings is a valuable resource for church planters, missionaries, and other people involved as leaders in reaching out to communities. While it is academic in nature, it is practical and does not read like a textbook. I highly recommend this book for those who want to prepare to minister effectively in their communities.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Press in exchange for my honest review.