Becoming a Community’s CoachEmail This Share This Tweet This
by Bethany Rivera Molinar, Youth and Family Programs Director, Ciudad Nueva, as told to TMF
This week we share an interview with Bethany Rivera Molinar, Youth and Family Programs Director, Ciudad Nueva El Paso, a nonprofit that embodies the gospel of Jesus Christ by advancing the renewal and development of El Paso’s Rio Grande neighborhood through the empowerment and transformation of its residents. An enthusiastic coach and cheerleader for her community, Bethany explains how the process of applying for TMF grants and the encouragement of TMF Grants Ministry is helping shape its programs for a new generation of families.
Where is Ciudad Nueva and what do you do there?
Ciudad Nueva is in El Paso’s Rio Grande District, and it is a great neighborhood! Despite statistics that point to 67 percent of children living in poverty and double the national average of teenage pregnancies, Ciudad Nueva aims to change the trajectory of those statistics by building partnerships and fostering the community’s strengths that are already present. We place our hope in the children (and their parents) whom we are helping to develop as leaders with servant hearts, so they will see good things for their community and neighbors. We pray that no matter where they are that they know that God cares about them and calls them to heralding his kingdom.
I currently serve as director of Youth and Family Programs - training and coaching staff and volunteers, helping to build community with neighborhood adults, assisting with outreach and serving as our organization’s grant writer. But it is my great passion to help cultivate spaces where our neighbors can walk confidently in the truth that they are each and altogether made in the image of God and that God has gifted them, both individually and collectively, with strengths and abilities that can be used to impact our community in significant ways.
How has TMF's Grants Ministry helped Ciudad Nueva?
I first attended a TMF workshop a few years ago, and then we applied for grants three times and were rejected twice. But through the rejections TMF consistently gave us feedback and encouraged us to reapply. Through that workshop, TMF helped us to think more critically about how we both write grants and how to more strategically partner with others in our community. TMF invited us to send early drafts of our grants, so they could give feedback, and they made time to visit our location to see and hear about the faith-based community development efforts at Ciudad Nueva. They really wanted to understand where we were as an organization, and I felt heard. It is rare to find a partner so invested in understanding the difference we are trying to make in the Rio Grande District. They are exceptional in seeking to maintain communication with their grantee applicants!
How did the TMF Grants help your programs grow?
With the grant we received from TMF, we have expanded our capacity for research, so we can learn how we can more effectively walk with and serve our community. We want to know how our programs for children and adults are and are not working and why, so we can more strategically impact our neighborhood. The grant also allows us the opportunity to hire neighborhood high school and college students as interns, program assistants and work-study students. This enables us to further develop indigenous youth leadership already present in our community. As they are encouraged to develop as leaders, they also help to steer the trajectory of our youth programs as they help shape the youth programs themselves. (Note: These youth are already a part of the fabric of our neighborhood, but as they serve as interns, program assistants, work-study students and volunteers, they become a part of helping shape CN youth programs and even help steer CN youth programs in terms of how we serve the youth in our neighborhood.)
How do you engage Rio Grande neighbors in your mission?
In some cases, this involves training, helping to both identify those God-given strengths and then helping to add tools to their toolbox, equipping them with additional skills to serve their families and community. In others, it might simply mean giving an encouraging word. A few years ago we hired a woman from our community whose children participated in our youth programs. She is a gifted community organizer and such a natural servant-leader but doesn’t always see those strengths within herself. By acting as her cheerleader and coach, my goal is to affirm those gifts and also help equip her with additional skills so she can more effectively walk in her God-given gifts in her desire to love her neighbors well.
Because we have sought to intentionally identify and hire women who already serve as organic leaders in our community, our work with adults has also been expanded! It gives me great joy to cheer those leaderson and encourage them in their work of building community. When we plug-in more community members with different skills and talents and when we ask others to participate, our community grows and becomes stronger.
What advice do you have for other community development ministries?
To other leaders who may be facing an opportunity to create partnerships and change in their neighborhoods, I tell them that the biggest resources they have are their neighbors. We believe that our neighbors have the resources to make their lives better (and mine, too, because I am one of them). They might not be aware of what they can do and the strengths they already have. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they know and what they like to do. We are not islands but part of a larger community, and together, we can make that community better!
We partner with many different churches in the neighborhood, and we communicate. We tell each other when we are worried about a child or a family, for example. If there’s a crisis, we come together. This is possible because we got out of our comfort zone and really got to know our neighbors. It is a key to our success.
Editor’s note about the TMF Spirit of Christmas Series: In 2018 TMF awarded grants to more than two dozen organizations to further their courageous, spirit-filled ministries. Our Spirit of Christmas series highlights the accomplishments of six ministries that inspire us to deepen our worship, increase our giving, love our neighbors and serve our communities all year long. Read our weekly blog posts and join our conversations on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.