I hear all sorts of personal reactions, comments, and questions at the end of an asset mapping experience. The most common response is also the simplest: “It’s so positive.” Participants often express amazement at the energy and ideas that have emerged from the group. Asset mapping profoundly surprises many people. They discover a new tool to tackle old problems.

Others feel less like they have found a new approach and more like they have rediscovered something they’ve known all along. A person might say, “This is the way I do things all the time. The asset mapping experience has validated and celebrated what I know.”

What is asset mapping to you? Probably, it is both a validation of what you already know and a new tool. If you have volunteered in congregation, you already know something about how people work together. Perhaps you have been part of a group that struggled to recruit members, that never seemed to get going, or that drained everybody’s energy and time. But, maybe you also have been part of groups that felt energized and enthusiastic, where it was easy and fun to get things done.

Why does one group struggle while another succeeds? Asset mapping gives us new language and a new conceptual framework to address that question.

Recognizing Our Assets

It begins with the half-full cup. Recognizing our assets reminds us to focus on the gifts that we have instead of on our needs or deficiencies. In the process, we renew the value of our existing assets.

When we think in terms of our deficiencies, we tend to focus on what other people have that we do not have, what has been lost or taken away, or what we never had in the first place. Because our needs and deficiencies are not useful, we cannot imagine how we might act. As a result, we feel dependent on others to fill our needs, or hopeless at the prospect that they won’t. Either way, we are engaged in fixed-sum thinking.

When we see the half-full cup instead of the half-empty cup, we experience a transformation of the mind. Nothing has changed outside of our mind; we are still in exactly the same situation. What has changed is how we think about our situation. We recognize all the gifts we receive from God, including the assets we might otherwise overlook or fail to appreciate. Listing our gifts impresses us. We begin to think about abundance instead of scarcity. We realize that every need we felt pointed to an asset that we cared about, an asset inside the need. We feel empowered by the experience because the assets we named can be used to act.

In a sense, what happens when we recognize our assets is the creation of something new through the rediscovery of the old. Like discovering buried treasure, we have found abundant riches in the gifts we already had! It reminds me of Paul’s message from Romans 12:2, “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

It is this newness, this discovered value, that makes recognizing our assets an open-sum dynamic. We experience a gain from recognizing our assets. But this gain isn’t taken away from someone else. It is newly reclaimed from our own consciousness. We feel support and encouragement for each other as we contribute newly appreciated assets into a pile on our table. We are not tempted to take asset sheets away from someone else! You are happy to affirm my talents. I am only too glad to name some of yours. Together we are uncovering valuable resources. We are acting on the open-sum thinking that your gain is my gain is our gain.

Excerpted from The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts, copyright © 2004 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce, go toour permissions form.


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Featured Resources

AL284_SMThe Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts by Luther K. Snow

Luther K. Snow shows congregational leaders how to help a group recognize its assets in order to act on them in ministry and mission. Tips, techniques, stories, and lessons drawn from the experience of diverse congregations will help readers discover how asset mapping works and why it strengthens faith and community. Snow shows us how to turn over control and open ourselves to the unexpected and amazing gifts of God.

AL245_SM Not Trying Too Hard: New Basics for Sustainable Congregations by Bob Sitze

Bob Sitze offers a new vision for congregations and their leaders, a vision that releases us from the growing burden of trying harder to invent and implement “better” worship, evangelism, stewardship, small groups, long-range planning, and mission statements. Sitze argues that congregations will find joy and fulfillment by more closely matching their expectations for ministry with personal and corporate assets.