by Carol Cohrs
Picture a room full of sticky-notes. Many are stuck on the walls, others are on the tables, and a few have fluttered to the floor.
The room is also full of church members, excitedly talking about their personal gifts, the church's resources, and connections they have with other organizations or associations. They're also pulling the sticky-notes into groups of six to ten, giving them a tentative project title, and saying, "Yes, we can do this."
This picture is asset mapping, looking at the assets we already have, bringing resources together and making a decision to accomplish something new, perhaps doing it with someone you've never met before. What a joy. What you see is a meeting of people who have chosen to look at the future with a glass half-full, recognizing their glass is "overflowing in thanks" to the Lord. (2 Cor 9:12-13)
The half-full cup
Connect the dots
Vote with your feet
Luther K. Snow gives a full description of asset mapping, and explains how anyone can lead an asset mapping event, in his book The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts. I watched Mr. Snow lead 140 church leaders through asset mapping this past September in St. Louis, Missouri. The hope was that their comfort level would move them to provide the same experience in their church, ultimately to see some new social service outreach activities in the St. Louis area. The all-day workshop was made possible by a partnership of the Missouri District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis.
So what is asset mapping and what are assets? As you would expect, assets are your current resources, objects that you hold dear. Another way to identify assets is to ask, "What is your cup half-full of?" Each church and their members have much to be thankful for, so what are they?
Assets (resources) are of many types. Some are physical assets--the rooms in a building, the pews, the playground outside. Individual assets are the gifts and talents that reside in our members, their families and their friends. Associational assets are the people you know; your friends might include a professional banker or teacher. Institutional assets are those organizations you have relationships with - perhaps a scout troop, a sports team or a community non-profit. Economic assets are those resources you usually start your list with (and often stop without considering the rest.) The last asset is the most important of all - signs of God's grace. Luther Snow says this aspect is often missed in these discussions. Ask, "What signs of God's grace have you witnessed lately?" and see what opportunities open up during the discussions.
Each person identifies three or more assets, each asset is written on a sticky note, and all the sticky notes go on the wall for the group to see. The next step is called "Connecting the Dots." The value of these gifts is uncovered by connecting them to the gifts of others. As you group the sticky notes, you brainstorm new actions that become possible by linking the existing assets. For example, an empty field on the property along with someone's talent for coaching youth sports teams and someone else's organizational skills could equal a neighborhood after-school ministry through youth sports. In this discussion you bridge from "what is" to "what can be," making attempts to think outside the box! Your goal is to put an action title on the wall (i.e., spring soccer camp for the community) over those assets that make up a project. The brainstorming increases the number of projects to consider further.
Abundance, affinity and release enable many to discover and act on their faith.
The final step is "Vote with Your Feet." People review the possible projects, then walk to the one they feel drawn to and most want to participate in. The process gives each person permission to follow their heart, to choose what is right for them and become part of something bigger than themselves. It can be a real surprise to find God calling you to use your gifts (assets) to a project that was not on your mind before the start of the day.
Asset mapping is about:
- Abundance -- the abundance of gifts leaves you seeing a cup half full, not half empty
- Affinity -- uncovering the value of your gifts and discover connections to others who see the same values
- Release -- giving permission to follow God's call
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Picture this: an empty room, a few sticky notes under the table, missed from the cleanup, and groups of people out working in the community, serving God's people as only joy-filled Christians can.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise Godů 2 Corinthians 9:12-13.
Carol Cohrs serves as Outreach Director at Child of God Lutheran Church, St. Peters, Missouri, and was an organizer for the asset mapping workshop she describes. Before moving to St. Louis when husband Rich accepted a position with Lutheran Hour Ministries, Carol served 18 years in the Michigan District LCMS office as librarian, event planner and stewardship assistant.