Redlining & Block Clubs

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

I was in Michigan last month as a speaker although, as is typically true, I learned more than I taught. As I sat in the back of a workshop listening to local leaders, I realized I was holding my breath.

The leaders were reflecting on the systems in Detroit and across our country that have created barriers for certain populations of people to thrive.


Like walls that people can’t cross, except this is not about citizenship, visas, immigration or refugees.

This is about power, prejudice, and racism.

Before I continue, I need to share two definitions with you. These may be familiar to you already but they were new to me:

Redlining is the intentional practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices or expectations, to people of a certain racial or ethnic composition.

Block Clubs are groups of people who have homes and families in a given block in the city and organize to improve the quality of life for the neighbors – and in its most heinous form, work to keep certain people from coming onto their block.

I was gasping for oxygen because redlining is a sad truth in the church too. We give so little time or energy to reflecting on how power truly hurts people. The church is walking by the people hurt on the side of the road every day. We don’t have time to care because we are so busy doing church that we are missing the opportunity to be church. We resist asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?” because we know we will hate the answer to that question.

Worse than a block club, we may be leading god clubs. I use a little “g” here because this is not about a big “G” way of life.

Is there any chance, even a few tiny bright spots, where we are the Samaritan who went over the top to help? You answer this question for your own leadership. Trust me, I am asking myself this same question for myself and for LEAD.

I am left to wonder if or how LEAD, as an organization, is not redlining or creating a block club in the way we do our own work. How are our consultation, coaching, and resources shaping a culture of Good Samaritan leaders?

I have a growing call to wrestle this one to the ground, but what will that mean for a leadership organization serving mostly white Christians, with a mostly white leadership team?

Zing. This is not easy, but it causes me to gasp for air when I realize that if we are not joining the Samaritan, accompanying all the pilgrims on the road, we are part of the problem. Leadership is risky but I think living like Jesus is even riskier – even in the church.

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