The United Methodist Church for All People in Columbus, OH grew out of a message of unconditional love and an atmosphere of radical hospitality. It is intentionally cross-class and multi-racial, living into its vision of building the ‘Front Porch to the Kingdom of God.’ The worship at C4AP reflects the diversity of the community, with multicultural worship music ranging from contemporary, to old hymns, to gospel, and sung in many styles and languages.
Community Development for All People (CD4AP) was formed as a sister community development corporation in 2003 with the mission of improving the quality of life for persons on the South Side of Columbus.
The Free Store is the flagship ministry of CD4AP. In the past year, the Free Store has distributed over $2 million in free clothing and household items and serves over 25,000 individuals each year. It is the basis for all the programs that have come after it, and is the foundation for building relationships with the community.
Through these relationships, CD4AP listened to the hopes and dreams of those who shopped at the Free Store and heard the desire for more safe, decent, and affordable housing on the south side of Columbus. Since 2005, CD4AP has done nearly $50 million in affordable housing in its neighborhood, in partnerships with Nationwide Children’s Hospital (through Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families), the United Way of Central Ohio, and South Side Renaissance. As a Community Housing Development Organization, CD4AP has partnered to repair or construct over 300 affordable, high quality homes.
CD4AP also serves hundreds of students through its youth development programming. During the school year, CD4AP provides a free after school program in partnership with the nearby Lincoln Park Elementary School. In the summer, CD4AP provides a Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools program. In conjunction, CD4AP cultivates rich relationships with parents to engage families at all levels.
CD4AP cares for the physical health of the community through its H.E.A.L. (Healthy Eating and Living) initiative. It’s a program designed to accompany individuals as they set goals to improve their health. H.E.A.L. includes a fresh produce market from which nearly 600,000 pounds of produce are distributed each year to over 1,500 families. H.E.A.L also provides health education classes, cooking classes, and exercise opportunities to the community.
Finally, we are leading efforts to combat infant mortality on the South Side. We do this primarily through our First Birthdays initiative to help babies thrive, our CareHome initiative to provide affordable housing to pregnant parents, and our partnership with Moms2Be.
We envision The United Methodist Church for All People to be the Front Porch to the Kingdom of God. Therefore, we will be an inclusive community where all people are received with hospitality, find hope, experience God’s Divine economy of abundance, and are transformed through Jesus Christ. We are a church for all people. We give our love and offer the saving, healing love of Jesus Christ to everyone, no matter who they are or what they have done. We create and implement ministries that bring to life our vision.
UM Church for All People and its sister nonprofit Community Development for All People are inextricably linked. Neither can exist without the other. It’s not uncommon to hear someone identify C4AP as “that church that sells houses.” While it’s technically the nonprofit organization that does the affordable housing work, our community understands that work of the two organizations are intertwined with together. And it matters to them. Indeed, we are also often identified as “that church that does what a church is supposed to do”
As we serve in partnership with our community, we are tangibly demonstrating God’s love in practical and meaningful ways. We build trust by forming relationships of mutuality and accompaniment. We send the message that God cares deeply about who we are, and is intimately involved with our daily struggles and victories. As we deepen our involvement in the community, it’s no wonder that the church grows as a result. Community development is congregational development.
We are devoted to facilitating an opportunity-rich community that is sustainable and that benefits the full range of residents in our community. To do this, we are grounded in two foundational principles: 1) the centrality of accompaniment and mutuality in unwavering relationship with our community, and 2) asset based community development that is achieved through collective impact and in a place-based manner.
With regard to our relationships with our community, we believe that the foundations of community change rest with the residents themselves. These relationships are at the heart of each one of our achievements to this point. Through the Free Store, we open our doors to the community and invite the sort of daily interactions necessary to build commonality. By listening to our neighbors in this setting, we ground our work in the hopes and dreams of the community. From this vantage point, we first launched our affordable housing initiative that has since invested nearly $50 million in safe, decent, and affordable housing on the South Side. Indeed, every step we have taken toward an opportunity rich community has had its roots in the relationships we build with the many that enter our doors each day.
By keeping our relationships with the community at the center of what we do, we maintain our commitment to our second foundational principle, asset based community development. We believe in a Divine Economy of Abundance and a God that provides ample assets that we can use to build the Front Porch to the Kingdom of God. We do not believe in a God of scarcity, but in a God of abundance. When we live into an attitude of generosity, we trigger a return to the abundance that God intends for us. Indeed, by focusing on assets rather than deficits, we find that community members and partners alike are better able to catch hold of the vision of prosperity for all and can more easily envision the pathway for achieving that dream.
This resource is part of GCORR’s Church to Community with Church for All People.