Okay, so let’s begin with us admitting that we don’t know any great word
to describe the context and communities we live in and focus on.
Words have power, but they can also be confusing, and people might use the same word to mean different things
(we could share stories of getting in trouble using what we thought were universal English words).
We use the term to describe communities that have been pushed outside the core of a society. They are communities that have most often been under-resourced, segregated in some way, where the strengths of the people are not held in esteem as much by general society, and their problems and challenges have been stigmatised.
Often they are communities where there are:
- High rates of poverty
- Low levels of formal education
- High levels of policing
- A lack of accessibility to affordable transportation, jobs, job training, and systems designed for the people in the community
We don’t like the term “socially disadvantaged” because we don’t equate economic disadvantage with social disadvantage. In fact most of us have chosen to live in our communities because we think there are social advantages. We find the communities to be generous, gracious, forgiving, having a strong sense of extended family, welcoming and passionate.
Some of our friends use “hard places”, and it’s not a bad term at all. But we do think that when local people do local ministry in these communities, it is a whole lot easier than when outside people try and build new things. In fact, for a lot of us, we think that the hardest places to do ministry are the middle and upper class communities (we pray for them ALL the time!).
Other friends have used the term “forgotten places”, and they mean ‘forgotten by mainstream society’, which we would agree with. But some have made it seem like God or His people have forgotten these communities , and of course that isn’t true. In fact, in most of the world, you will find thriving ministries and churches in poor communities.
Another wise friend of ours has used the term “fringe”, and we really love this term (think tapestry), because as they pointed out, fringes can be so beautiful, they add to the main picture, they are attached but they are different. It is one of the most positive terms, and one that we might end up using more.
There are other terms that are used, and maybe some might be better, so we reserve the right to change what we use. 🙂
What we don’t want to do is label people. We use the term primarily for communities,
and we use it as a term for what has been done TO a community from another group.
If you would like to find out more information or schedule a time to meet with someone on our team, please contact us.