At CRN, our heartbeat is to help strengthen local churches' impact in their communities.
Our early years
CRN was born, with the vision of Dr. Joel Hunter, out of a desire to bring the Church together across the greater Orlando area in order to meet the needs of so many in our community who are struggling. That vision continues today, with the belief that by networking the church and combining focused efforts, we might be able to help all families in our community experience the wellbeingGod desires.
Initially, this vision included building a digital network platform that could connect necessary resources with needs, across churches and non-profit organizations. And whilst that initial effort helped us build important collaborative relationships across the community, it did not address the most important aspect of our vision: the ‘love your neighbor’ relationships that truly change lives!
As CRN developed and stepped more directly into some of the large scale needs here in Central Florida (like the issue of families living in unstable housing conditions), we began to realize that if the Church was going to make real and lasting impact in the lives of families and individuals experiencing the effects of poverty, there was a need for both understanding and best-practice learning. Since our DNA has always been collaboration and connection, CRN began to partner and facilitate this learning across greater Orlando area, first in partnership with Poverty Solutions Group (PSG) to offer the ‘Cost of Poverty Experience’ (COPE) and then through facilitating the ‘When Helping Hurts’ curriculum to over 400 individuals and church leaders, both of which are still shaping new expressions of ministry here in Central Florida.
In 2020, as most of us experienced, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic forced some changes in what we were able to do physically as an organization. However, it also gave us the valuable opportunity to step back and continue our ongoing research, learning and growth process as an organization. We began to ask some of the really hard questions, like: "If so many churches and non-profits are giving so much time, energy, and resources, why are the numbers of people in crisis continuing to rise - even before COVID?" These tough questions led us to seek a deeper understanding of how truly transformative work happens -- through authentic, mutual relationships and in the types of collaboration that honors the value everyone brings to the table - and where and how was this work being done by the Church that showed results and promise?
CRN has always believed that the Church is uniquely called and positioned to work together to bring about the health and wellbeing of every member of our community. And this new learning gave increased clarity to the shape of this collective work -- that we are not only called as churches to "love our neighbor as ourselves" (flowing directly from our love for God), but also called to follow the relational model of Jesus in doing this work. Therefore, as we look toward the coming new year, this posture, along with the unity that we know Jesus desired as the expression of this love (so the "world will know"), becomes the context for the work and the foundation we will be building on.
The past year here at CRN has also been a time of new collaborative partnerships here in Central Florida, across the country and internationally. We have developed strategic relationships with organizations that we believe can help the Church continue to grow in learning best-practices for how we care for our community; several of these learning curriculums will be available early in the new year. In addition, we have developed relationships with organizations that have led the way in cities across the U.S. and across the world, helping churches come together in unity of purpose to make real impact on the wellbeing of a city or region.
We are excited as we look toward the future and the many ways God will be moving here in Central Florida, through the Church, so that everyone has the relationships and resources they need to thrive and to bring about his wholeness and wellbeing in every neighborhood.