Thriving Rural Communities at IEI


In North Carolina, 80 counties are classified as rural. In these communities, faith groups remain the strongest, most impactful, and most trusted local institutions. At IEI, we believe that communities of faith are essential partners to finding new and innovative solutions to the unique challenges facing our rural communities.


Through a Duke Endowment Funded initiative, IEI will assist rural faith communities across North Carolina by:

  • Helping to identify and understand the large issues facing North Carolina and their local communities;
  • Working to develop and find resources to engage these issues (located below)
  • Providing ongoing support as faith-based communities offer their solutions and implement their plans all across the State.

For more information about these events, or how the Institute for Emerging Issues can work with your rural faith communities, contact IEI’s Rural Faith Communities Fellow, Kylie Foley, at or 919-515-3542.

IEI hosts Peer Networks
Peer Network webinars will be hosted in the next few weeks — register below (limited spots)!
IEI’s Peer Networks are issue areas generated from rural faith leaders on subjects that matter to them. We’re always willing to start more, and will be adding an Affordable Housing Peer Network soon!

Multicultural Partnerships Peer Network 

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Join faith leader Rev. Hanna Broome, Elder of the Eastern NC District of the AMEZ Church, as she discusses the Poor People’s Campaign as well as the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Initiative. How can these resources assist your multicultural efforts?

Community Food Partnerships Peer Network

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
What are more practical ways to bring healthy ministries to your faith community? Thanks to Partners in Health and Wholeness’ NE Regional Coordinator Josie Walker for joining us!

Early Childhood Partnerships Peer Network

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Rockingham County’s Partnership for Children has been exploring how to help improve emotional well-being for the kids in their urban and rural communities. Learn about lessons they’re learning along with resources to incorporate a racial-equity lens to early childhood work.

Substance Use Disorder + Mental Health Partnerships Peer Network

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Dr. Beverly Wallace, author of African-American Grief, will share about training grassroots and mental health providers across North Carolina about the science and practice of resiliency in the wake of community and personal trauma. 

Questions? Contact Thriving Rural Communities Fellow, Kylie Foley

Resources for Rural Churches as Anchor Institutions 

Below are resources to help you learn about the challenges in your community and engage new partners. Resources are divided into relevant categories based on our current work with eligible faith communities. Want highlights? Check out IEI’s “Noteworthy” suggestions.

Jump To:

Get To Know Your Community | Asset-Based Community Development | Food Partnerships
Hispanic Partnerships | Education/Tutoring Partnerships | Mental Health Partnerships


The first step in any faith and civic partnership is to discover your community’s story. Who lives here? What are our strengths? What are the issues?  Use the following data resources to provide more insight on the challenges and opportunities that exist within your community.

  • 5 Questions to Ask About Your Community: Whether your faith community has a storied tradition in community engagement or is just getting started these helpful tips help frame your current and future vision for civic partnership
  • IEI Commons Data: Explore IEI’s virtual Emerging Issues Commons and see how important county variables around the environment, economy, health and education affect your local community. Submit your idea of how your congregation is  positively impacting North Carolina.
    • Noteworthy: The data set about number of psychologists per county. Faith leaders are often     the first responders to mental health crises and need to know what resources exist locally
  • IEI Civic Health Index: What is civic health? It is the social and economic vitality that results when citizens interact productively with their neighbors, involve themselves in community institutions, and actively engage in public issues
    • Noteworthy: “North Carolina Subgroups: Trends and Divided” (Page 23)
  • County Health Assessment: Collected every 3 years, your county’s CHA provides detailed and practical data from citizens in your area about health, recreation, challenges, and quality of life
    • Noteworthy: Social and Economic Factors
  • NC 211 Counts: 211 is a free phone service provided by United Way for many North Carolina counties about basic social services. Select your county name to see the calls registered about housing, legal services, food insecurity and more in your area
    • Noteworthy: Check out the top request for assistance over the past 365 days for your county
  • Access NC County Profile: Learn about the demographics, jobs, housing, and income about citizens from your county profile
    • Noteworthy: “Place of Work”- the ratio of people working in or outside their county shares a deeper of your county’s economic prospects for workers


Many faith groups view their local community through an ABCD lens- a mutual relationship that explores the assets of a communities rather than the deficits. By changing how we talk, interact, give back, take, and partner with communities we can engage in more effective and meaningful work.

  • Rural Faith Community Action Guide: This guide is designed to help faith communities understand local issues, identify potential community-based solutions, and develop clear steps to create a discernible  plan of action
    • Noteworthy: “Appendix: Worksheets” for a simple way to plan your involvement
  • Asset-Based Strategies for Faith Communities Workbook: This in-depth guide from the Asset-Based Community Development Institute is vital for understanding how your faith community can live out best practices when engaging your neighbors.
    • Noteworthy: “Finding Inspiration in Our Community’s Assets” (Page 67)
  • Sample Congregation Listening Session: Asking questions is one of the best ways to evaluate what strengths your congregation brings to community partnership
    • Noteworthy: Guidelines for listening session facilitators ensure the best outcome
  • Congregation Values: Each faith community operates under a set of values which may vary depending on who you ask. Setting up core values guide future efforts is essential for focused partnerships.
    • Noteworthy: Include the values list in your worship bulletin and ask participants to circle the top 5 values of the congregation
  • 50 Ways to Take Church to the Community:  From the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, this guide has practical and creative tips to jumpstart your brainstorming session
    • Noteworthy: “Build Authentic Relationships” section


Most faith communities are passionate about ending hunger in their community. Whether you have an established food pantry or a new community garden, there are simple steps to ensure a vibrant and effective partnership to end hunger.

  • Effective Food Partnership Guide: Keep these essential points in mind with your food ministry
    • Noteworthy: Use the Values worksheet to guide your food partnership vision based on your congregation’s values, gifts, limitations, and abilities
  • Dissecting Hunger Activity: Adapted from the “Hunger 101” curriculum, these simple activities help address how we view hunger
    • Noteworthy: “Hunger Activity Two”
  • Innovative Ideas for Food Ministries: Check out this list for exciting examples of food partnerships from our partner Resourceful Communities
    • Noteworthy: “Stretching A Dollar: Grocery Store Tours”
  • Food Banks as Partners in Health Promotion: Explore health systems and food bank best practices from CHLPI of Harvard Law School and Feeding America
    • Noteworthy: “Considerations for Food Banks” section (Page 14)
Partner Resources:


North Carolina has an exploding Hispanic/Latino population that add tremendous value to our communities. Rural churches can provide meaningful services, partnerships, and relationships to foster a supportive environment for Hispanic communities.

  • Hispanic Partnership Guide: Some best practice concepts to consider when engaging Hispanic Communities
    • Noteworthy: “Language” section
  • Immigration and People of Faith: Learn about how your ministry can learn about immigrant issues and opportunities from our partners the North Carolina Council of Churches
    • Noteworthy: “Ideas for Worship” (Page 27)
  • Directory of Rural Hispanic Resources: Contact information for North Carolina organizations specializing in resourcing Hispanic communities
    • Noteworthy:” NC Farmworker Health Program”
Partner Resources


Working with local schools allows faith communities to use their resources to wholistically support students, teachers, and administrators.

  • Faith-Based Early Learning Toolkit: The White House and Department of Education sponsor this guide to help faith leaders create quality early learning programs with a focus on African-American families
    • Noteworthy: “Section 4b: You Can Make a Difference” (Page 23)
  • Congregations for Children: C4C, a ministry of the North Carolina and Western North Carolina United Methodist Conferences, helps churches establish meaningful relationships with their local schools with an emphasis on literacy
    • Noteworthy: C4C provides Poverty Awareness Trainings
  • 50 Ways to Engage Local Schools: The Lewis Center for Church Leadership outlines important and creative ideas to engage your local school
    • Noteworthy: Points 48-50
  • Safe Sanctuaries: 10 step guide to help make sure minors and volunteers participating with your ministry are protected from harm
Partner Resources:


  • The Recovery Village: The Recovery Village is a network of rehabilitation facilities that offer comprehensive treatment for substance abuse disorders as well as co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Mental Health Partnerships Guide: Faith leaders are often on the front lines of mental health issues in their community. There are crucial steps to help people feel accepted and assisted
    • Noteworthy: Advocacy
  • Mental Health First Aid Training: This national group shares basic mental health trainings happening in your local area or state. Trainings can be done on one day or spread out over multiple weeks.  Perfect for newcomers to the mental health conversation.
    • Noteworthy: Mental Health trainings for rural populations, older adults, veterans, and youth
  • Mental Health Community Conversation Toolkit: Use these collection of resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to integrate mental health conversations in your next committee meeting, youth group gathering, or Bible study
Partner Resources: