All four Gospels relate the story of the Feeding of the 5000. In these stories, when faced with the overwhelming need of feeding a large group of people, Jesus told the disciples to “go look” and discover what resources they had. He did not want to know what they did NOT have, but rather, what they did possess.
They came back with the answer, “Two fish and five loaves.” That’s not much for a crowd of that size. Remember the response of Jesus? “It’s enough.” He broke it, blessed it, and gave it to the hungry crowd and there was more than enough. Where the disciples saw shortage, he saw resources.
In like fashion, churches often look at what they do not have and offer excuses for not moving forward, when the Gospel demands and expects them to take what they do have, offer it to Christ, and let Him use it, multiply it, and expand it for His glory. Sometimes the problem with churches is that what they THINK they have is far less than what they truly possess.
Asset Mapping is a “group interaction” tool for just such situations as it helps congregations discover and utilize strengths and abilities already present within the congregation and further the work, vision, and mission of the church. Asset Mapping has been compared to a snowball that gathers size, strength, and momentum as more and more assets are discovered and given space to express themselves. This tool helps to focus individuals and churches to function out of an abundance mentality and not one of scarcity and focuses on half-full rather than half-empty realities.
Asset Mapping creates a mentality of abundance by helping individuals and churches discover all of the various tools, resources, and talents shared within the congregation. It begins with the rediscovery and mapping of a church’s resources—the skills and capacities of its members; the power of local associations and networks; the resources of local public, private and nonprofit institutions; and the physical and economic assets. As a group exercise, church members can attempt to unearth possible assets in five different categories:
1. Physical assets—these are things you can touch or see or own like a house, car, lawnmower, cell phone, ladder, pressure washer, wheel-barrow, a laptop, or a pick-up truck.
2. Individual assets—these are your talents, skills, and experiences. What are you good at doing? What do you know something about? What are you experienced in doing? Perhaps you can sing, write, plumb a house, garden, repair mechanical stuff, do carpentry, or run a business.
3. Associational assets—these are the networks or people with whom you are connected. Who are the people you know or care about? What groups of people do you belong to such as a swim club, reading group, band member, car club, neighborhood watch group, or sewing circle, etc.
4. Institutional assets—these are agencies, and corporations with budgets and staff. Where do you work? Where do you volunteer? What institutions make decisions that affect you? Examples could be, a University, a Habitat for Humanity organization, a Foundation board, a non-profit serving the city.
5. Economic assets—these are assets that involve spending power and investments. What do you do to make money? What do you spend money on? What non-profits get your attention? Are their ways to access economic strengths?
The Asset Mapping strategy then requires the congregation to think strategically about the ways each asset can be grouped with other assets to achieve a goal or begin a ministry initiative. For example, in an old fashion barn-raising when early settlers set up a farm or ranch they had to use the gifts they had in common to get things done. One neighbor had some timber and another neighbor had some carpentry equipment. Several people had individual skills in construction. Some could lift and carry. Some could cook. The people put these things together and had a barn-raising. They connected several assets to get things done, and created a new asset in the process.
The same thing can happen in the local church. When members bring their best gifts, their best connections, and their best resources to the church and offer them as assets to be used, suddenly the thoughts of “we just don’t have enough resources,” gives way to a hopeful vision of many possible ways to dream of new ministries and engage new people. Churches have more than enough to do the things God is calling them to do. The key is in creating a mindset of abundancy rather than shortages. Asset mapping changes the focus to possibility.