Zip Code Connection Transitions to “Ministry With”

Adriana Kirkindoff

Once there were no licensed mental health professionals stationed in Red River County. Funded by a General Board of Global Ministries Grant, a mental health clinic a county over hired and supervised for licensure a local resident to become the district’s counselor. As of January 2019, Adrianna Kirkindoff is fully licensed and is serving as a school counselor and resource staff person at the high school. 

Begun in 2013, the work that was a part of the Zip Code Connection (ZCC) has now transitioned into helping local churches and partners in 75215 and 75246, as well as around North Texas, be in “ministry with” their own communities.

The founding goals of the ZCC were to a) develop deeper relationships with our neighbors in the two highest poverty zip codes in North Texas, and b) to extrovert the best learnings from this experience to our conference’s life.  

One of the important learnings from the ZCC has been that the CMO can be most effective by partnering with local churches and UMC-related mission agencies who are “on the ground.” Local churches and organizations have the proximity to the poor and marginalized in their communities that allows them to build credibility and trust. An institution such as the Annual Conference is better at building outside partnerships and resourcing than building direct relationships with neighbors. Using this approach, the CMO can teach and instill “ministry with” values in multiple North Texas contexts.

In Clarksville – Red River County, the CMO has transitioned fully to direct, local leadership of the efforts the ZCC initiated. And in South Dallas – Fair Park, the CMO continues to work alongside neighborhood local churches and UMC-related organizations as a way to walk with our neighbors. As such, the CMO’s efforts will be known as efforts by local stakeholders in partnership with the CMO instead of under the name Zip Code Connection. The ZCC name and branding will be retired to reflect the CMO’s shift to focusing on and resourcing local churches and related organizations.

The CMO wants to celebrate some of the lasting impacts of the Zip Code Connection since 2013:

  • Hub Community Center: This acclaimed center for important meetings, social services and innovative action was begun with the intention that a local organization could one day sustain and operate it. Since October 2018, The Hub has continued under the umbrella of the Economic Development Corporation and is home to a variety of organizations.
  • South Dallas – Fair Park Faith Coalition:  Early on, a Perkins School of Theology intern identified 135+ faith communities within South Dallas – Fair Park alone. The ZCC leadership knew that connecting with, listening to and partnering these congregations together could make a powerful difference. Twenty-six congregations continue to actively participate in the South Dallas – Fair Park Faith Coalition. These congregations identify issues they can collectively address, including homelessness, school partnerships, and public health. Affordable housing and resisting gentrification that would push residents out of the neighborhood are emerging issues.
  • Counseling Partnership with Clarksville ISD: School administrators told ZCC leadership that zero licensed mental health professionals were stationed in Red River County. Students struggling with poverty and difficult circumstances did not have access to a school counselor, except one that had to drive in. Funded by a $50,000 General Board of Global Ministries Grant, a mental health clinic a county over hired and supervised for licensure a local resident to become the district’s counselor. As of January 2019, Adrianna Kirkindoff is fully licensed and is serving as a school counselor and resource staff person at the High School. With the guidance and support of the CMO, ISD funding has been approved to hire a full-time counselor at the elementary school, as well. The academic performance and classroom behavior of students who have interacted with this counseling service have improved dramatically.

As the CMO transitions to extroverting the learnings of the ZCC and focusing on and resourcing local churches and related organizations, the CMO is excited to highlight the following ministries:

  • Warren UMC: Experiments with Missional Identity – Neighborhood Partnership: In March 2018, Warren UMC decided to accept an invitation to partner with the CMO to help them focus outwardly on their neighborhood. Warren UMC intentionally rebuilt in 2007 after a previous building burned. They have chosen to remain in ministry with their neighbors at the corner of Malcolm X and MLK boulevards in South Dallas – Fair Park. With the leadership of Rev. Joshua Manning, the church has boldly explored partnering with other organizations to use its modern space to create a co-working center and multi-use rental space for community-oriented groups.  This effort leverages the church’s legacy of being a gathering space for community activists and visionaries since the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Top Learnings Guide and Resource Portal: Included on the CMO website are the top learnings from the relationships and experiences of the Zip Code Connection. These learnings have generated several resourcing opportunities for leaders and local churches and are found here. In addition, anyone can access a rich variety of resources to explore “ministry with” by here.
  • CitySquare Pastoral Leadership Cohort: As way of equipping rural churches and leaders for “ministry with,” the CMO is partnering with CitySquare and Rev. Rob Spencer to provide a unique coaching and resourcing opportunity. In 2015, Rev. Spencer and First UMC Paris boldly re-engaged their community through school partnerships, which provoked big questions about how to respond to issues of generational poverty, affordable housing, and transforming a city through partnerships. They approached CitySquare, our resident poverty-fighting experts, for help. Included in the Pastoral Leadership Cohort are site visits, regular coaching calls and goal-setting, plus access to the expertise of Rev. Larry James and the staff of CitySquare. In June, five clergy from the East and Northwest Districts will begin participating in the cohort.

For more information about any of the above “ministry with” initiatives or resources, go to the CMO website or email Rev. Andrew Fiser.

Published: Monday, April 15, 2019