Amber’s First Week with the Downriver Churches – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Amber’s First Week with the Downriver Churches

Moving in was quite an adventure! I was able to room with Lisa, who I had met working together in UROP this past academic year, and we have a boring but functional room (with working approximately 35 hours per week, who needs a room to be nicely decorated? Besides, we have our own bathroom, which is basically the best thing in the world to a community-bathroom user). Lisa put up pictures on her blog post this week of our room.

The Downriver churches that I am working with this summer are all three Lutheran churches in the Downriver area (Transfiguration in Taylor, Peace in Southgate, and Immanuel in Riverview) that share a ministry team: a husband-and-wife duo splitting one full-time position between them (where each works every other day). Pastor Kirstin and Minister Troy started working with these churches about six months ago, and in that time have done enough to gauge where each of the congregations is and what they all collectively would like to do to help strengthen their force in the local community. Which is where I come in as an outsider, to look at what the outside community already has and what it needs, and make recommendations as to how these churches can fill that gap. It’s a complete needs assessment being done in only one summer, which is a bit daunting to me (especially considering I am primarily working independently, with only one real meeting per week with either Pastor Kirstin or Minister Troy), but I am also very excited to both do something that I have not had any real experience in and to help strengthen these churches as assets to their communities.

I first met Minister Troy at Peace on Tuesday, where he showed me around all three of the churches and gave me a rundown on each church’s history and why it was doing so poorly. He focused a lot on the look and feel of each of the buildings, and how moving around them was not intuitive, which were all things that I immediately picked up on as an outsider. I also learned a lot about recent Christian history in the United States, and specifically why Lutheran churches were splintering off and often losing some – if not most – of their members. I think it gave me a really solid base off of which I could continue to do the first part of this summer’s project.

The rest of this week saw me researching a lot of profit and not-for-profit organizations within a 1-mile radius of each of the churches, creating and organizing a template with a lot of information about these organizations (like normal, boring contact information and their mission statements as well as more interesting and creative things like ways in which the churches and these organizations could partner, and what I thought about the organization), and contacting these organizations to see if they might like to work with us in the future. This was more of a preliminary contact, to see if these service organizations and their goals would align with our goals as a faith-based organization, and to potentially create a friendly foundation that could be built upon if the needs assessment dictates that a partnership would fill a need in the community.

All in all, it was fairly boring, independent work, but I know how much I am needed so that these churches can survive the year. This was only augmented by me finding an announcement about my work in Transfiguration’s latest online newsletter:

Amber in the TLC Newsletter June/July 2013

I was a little nervous of this placement and working with a faith-based organization rather than another not-for-profit organization, but I am hopeful that my presence with them this summer will be beneficial to both the churches and myself.

2 thoughts on “Amber’s First Week with the Downriver Churches”

  1. So you’re assessing both the communities and the churches, and how the churches can strengthen one another? That sounds pretty challenging. My placement is a non-profit created and operated by a lutheran church, but I’m only doing the community needs assessment, not assessing the organizations themselves. And I agree that doing this type of research, for the most part independently, can feel daunting.

  2. I feel the same way in being a helpful presence to my organization. It sounds like they need you and I hope things pick up around there – hopefully your projects gets more interesting since that was only the first week! My suggestion would be to think about how you want to tailor your project to your own interests as well. Good luck!

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