Last week I visited with Rev. Richard Coleman, who serves as the Executive Director for Hope United CDC in North Minneapolis (featured in short video below). Rev. Coleman helped form the Northside Community Response Team (NCRT), a coalition of the leaders of 60 nonprofit organizations and philanthropists who came together shortly after a tornado ripped through North Minneapolis on May 22, 2011. The NCRT mobilized thousands of volunteers to clear debris and help residents. In addition they received and distributed over $677,000 to assist the area and its residents in its recovery.
This was no small task. Of the 7,000 properties in North Minneapolis, 3,700 were damaged by the tornado in an area of the city that is depressed economically. Recently, a report was shared at Hope United’s Bridge of Reconciliation which stated the unemployment rate at 37% in North Minnepolis. In addition 67% of the residents are on some form of public assistance.
Having recovered from the tornado, Hope United and the members of the NCRT have dedicated their organizations to addressing the ongoing economic issues of North Minneapolis through a collective impact approach to jobs called the Workforce Investment Network (WIN). This is a community based collaborative led by the chief executives of Summit Academy OIC, EMERGE, Northpoint Wellness, The Minneapolis Urban League, Urban Homeworks, Community Standards Initiative, and Hope United CDC. The goal of WIN is to reduce public assistance dependency by 25% over the next five years.
This is a powerful example of a faith based organization working in partnership with community organizations around issues they and the community care about. They know the baseline and are working toward agreed upon outcomes using a collective impact strategy.
When Jeremiah wrote his letter to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, he urged them to make their new city their home (Jeremiah 29:4-7). He wrote that they should:
- Build houses and live in them.
- Plant gardens and eat their produce.
- Get married and have children and encourage your children to do the same.
- Seek the shalom of the city and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity you also will prosper.
This message was for a people who were forced to relocate against their will in the land of their enemy. Yet it is here that Jeremiah calls upon them to “seek the shalom of the city and pray to the Lord on its behalf…”
Over 90% of the world’s nations are experiencing rapid urbanization. My friend, Mac Pier, says that 38% of the global diaspora are landing in American cities. Many of these are trying to make this new land their home.
Recently, I met Patrice Tsague, whose family came from Ghana to Washington, DC when he was 11. Today, he serves as the President and Founder of the Nehemiah Project International Ministries. This is a biblically based training program for fledgling entrepreneurs, small and mid-sized business owners. The Nehemiah Project headquarters are in Portland, OR and they are actively training leaders in 20 cities. Patrice has found that the most important thing that Christians can do to create good cities economically is to unleash the creative and productive potential of entrepreneurs in business.
Patrice and his team teach entrepreneurs, small and mid-size buisness owners the importance of going beyond the triple bottom line to bring eternal kingdom returns as a result of their work. The triple bottom line that many in business are pursuing today include financial returns, investing in people, and stewarding the planet’s resources. As a Christian, Tsague believes that business leaders can exemplify kingdom values and seek the prosperity of communities through local community development where they are based. This is one of many faith based initiatives with outcomes that contribute to city transformation. In the video below, he shares two stories of business people transforming their cities.
Geography is important within cities. People have a sense of place attached to their identity. It is never just a general sense of place as in “I’m from Cleveland.”I may say this to someone I have just met, but the truth of the matter is that I am from Bay Village, a third ring western suburb of Cleveland with a 5 mile shoreline on the southern shore of Lake Erie. When I say that I am from Bay Village, I mean that I grew up there through the first 21 years of my life. My memories of this place and the people I knew there shaped my identity in powerful ways.
Today, I’m from the Twin Cities. I have lived here for 20 years. During that time I have lived in the same house in a second ring southwestern suburb, Eden Prairie. As an adult, my life and my identity have been developed in a far more intentional way through my marriage to Kathy, my choice of vocation, my interaction with my children, my neighbors, my church, and the leaders of the communities I choose to interact with here in the Twin Cities.
I serve as a community leadership coach to cities. One of the cities where I am currently working is Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati is composed of 52 unique neighborhoods, each with its own sense of place. The residents have formed neighborhood associations that look out for the good of their neighborhood and its interests. Children’s memories and identities are formed by the geography, architechture, and social relationships fostered in each of these areas. Adults have more freedom and mobility than children, yet to a great degree, their lives are shaped through their experiences of where they live, work and serve.
The group I coach in Cincinnati is called Neighborhoods Embracing Transformation (NET). It’s a name that is active and filled with a sense of mission. The name itself points to the shifting and changing nature of places and people over time. Their hope is that there will be an internal, eternal change spiritually for the people in each neighborhood that will result in economic, cultural, and social improvements for the people who live and work there.
NET is begining their work in two townships, Colerain and Anderson. Currently, the leaders of the NET team are encouraging prayer through an initiative they are calling Ignite and they are interviewing local residents and leaders to learn about the assets that currently exist in each community. I interviewed Chuck Proudfit, the founder of At Work On Purpose of which the NET team is a sub group. (90 second video.)
On Saturday, March 1, I spoke at Cincinnati’s At Work On Purpose, Marketplace Mobilization 2014 Conference. Horizon Church was packed with over 700 leaders from all sectors and channels of influence. This ministry has grown over the past 10 years from a handful of marketplace leaders to over 6500 involved today who are each growing deeper in ways that they live out their calling at work. This is a replicable model that brings leaders together for city transformation. A kit has been developed for other cities to put together a similar model in their own city. It can be ordered using the contact form at http://atworkonpurpose.org.
Cities become good cities as people learn to live out their callings at work, home, and in places they server. CEO and Founder gives a quick overview in this short video.
I recently spent two days with Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders in Phoenix to explore ways that Evangelicals and Catholics could express their oneness in Christ for the good of their city. Mateo Calisi, President of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Communities and Fellowships, and his friend Giovanni Traettino, Leader of the Christian Community of Caserta came to Phoenix from Italy at the invitation of Joseph Tosini (see 3 minute video below.) At a Friday evening worship service on February 21, hosted by Living Streams Church, an encouraging letter from Pope Francis was read by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
Pope Francis wrote, “I hope this meeting will draw down the Lord’s blessings so that we can perservere along the path to unity. We who have received the one baptism long for full communion; this is a grace of the Lord that we must fervently implore.” These are hopeful words and bode well for the unity of Christ’s church for the good of every city where this occurs.
Auxillary Bishop Eduardo Nevares shared a vision that 20,000 Catholics and Evangelicals will have a public worship service on Pentecost 2015 as an expression of church unity. That will be a sight to behold.