Some time ago I held a planning meeting to discuss where we were and where we wanted to go as a church. At the end of our time together we had discussed our strengths and our resources as well as our desire to reach out to our community in the name of Jesus Christ. What we were less sure of was who lives in our community. It isn’t that we don’t know anything. We know that people in our community are hurting. On average, more people are coming to us for help through Perry Helping Perry and the food pantry every month. We know that there is a need, but before we get too far down the road planning new things to help them, perhaps it would be better to understand what sorts of people live in our community, what they need, and what sorts of help they want.
Certainly, some of you grew up here and went to school here, but Perry is changing and is different from the place you grew up. One of you told me of the Perry where you grew up being mostly farms and open land. That Perry is gone. Even more telling is the conversation I had with Ruth Hubbard, a long time member and teacher for many years at Whipple Heights Elementary. As we were discussing Perry Helping Perry, the food pantry, and how many families were coming for food and for the fall backpack campaign, she marveled that during all her years as a teacher there had never been that kind of need. Perry today is a different place than it once was.
That isn’t to say that Perry is bad, or worse, than it once was, Perry was, and is today, a wonderful place, but this reminds us that Perry is different than it once was, its people are different, and its needs are different than they once were. Trinity and her people want to make a difference and we can make a difference. But again, before we jump into any new projects it might be wise to learn more about today’s Perry, who lives here and what they need.
Thankfully, much of that information is available to us. Through the larger United Methodist connection, we have access to an enormous database of information called Mission Insite. This demographic (demography is the study of human populations) database is the same one that is used by major corporations to decide where to build new branches and franchises, and in which magazines to advertise to reach their targeted audiences. All of this information is free to us.
What is needed are a handful of volunteers who can help us to sift through the piles of information and boil it down to the facts that we really need. We need a few people who know and understand Trinity and her people, as well as having a good familiarity with our community. This group of volunteers will meet a few times over the course of two or three months (I think) and sort through the available information and then make a report to Church Council, the Program/Planning Committee, and to SPR. Then, armed with this new information, we can have a better discussion about who lives here, what they need, and how Trinity can help.
To be fair, what I am asking is not very exciting but neither does it require a strong back. What it requires is a little patience, and the ability to discern useful information from tables and graphs full of facts. My hope is that this small group of people will then become our “demographic experts” or “Insite experts” who will, from time to time, help up answer other questions because they know where and how to find the answers.
Will you help us learn more about our neighbors and our community?
[Note: As of 2/25/14 I have two volunteers to help us dig through the data that is available to us. We really could use two or three more. - Thanks!]