C3i program combines church, community and social work

The Diana R. Garland School of Social Work's Center for Church and Community Impact (C3i) program provides research and training to congregations on dealing with community issues like stress, mental health concerns, trauma, loneliness and addiction. Brittany Tankersley | Photographer

By Lauren Combs | Reporter

The Center for Church and Community Impact (C3i) program, housed in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, strives to research and provide curriculum for congregations on community issues.

Dr. Gaynor Yancey, director of C3i, dives deeper into the program, explaining the research, work and importance of having a social work presence within congregations.

“Congregations, for me, are the heart of what we are about and certainly what our faith is about,” Yancey said. “But along with that comes the purpose of the C3i, [which] is to come alongside congregations to strengthen them in the way that they feel God directs them to do their work.”

Yancey said examples of curriculum include how to start a soup kitchen, food ministry or after-school care program. However, Yancey said the program extends past the 600 local churches and works with any congregation on its specific needs.

“We’re moving in, starting to look at what we call the border project, which is working with pastors on the border of Texas to do social work 101, which is their request … that we would train them how to do our social work skills,” Yancey said.

Yancey said congregations are already pretty good at relief and survival ministries like providing food or shelter to someone in need.

“The bigger question mark and our bigger opportunity right now — besides those relief kinds of ministries — are the harder things, which are, ‘What does it look like to focus on social justice?'” Yancey said. “Those justice kinds of ministries become extremely important, but they are the deeper part of who we are in the congregational life, but they also are the harder parts.”

Yancey said another focus for the program is researching how to measure congregational impact on communities using a generosity scale.

“Teaching the church that figuring out and learning how to measure your impact becomes so important to go along with what you feel God is calling you to do,” Yancey said. “If God leads us to do this ministry, then what we’re saying is not, ‘Can we quantify it?’ but, ‘Can we measure it in some way to where we start to show the goodness of the call of God on our lives as a church?'”

Upper-level Baylor students can help with the efforts of the Center for Church and Community Impact by applying to become social work interns. Yancey said the internship can also tailor to the community interests of individual interns.

Lacey Fitch-Ondracek, a Baylor alumna who works as a success coach for the Support & Empowerment Program at McLennan Community College, was last year’s social work intern. Fitch-Ondracek said her internship focused on community recovery.

“A lot of what I did was research, but then also just getting to know some of the local churches around to see what resources they had relating to recovery,” Fitch-Ondracek said. “Having the education, the awareness and the professionalism around [social work] again just kind of builds on that strength of being able to heal in a safe way.”

Congregations that are interested in acquiring the services provided by the Center for Church and Community Impact program can complete the interest form found on its website.