GoodCities is pleased to welcome Reggie McNeal as City Coach. He joins Glenn Barth who continues to serve as President. Through GoodCities, Reggie and Glenn offer leadership development through the City Impact Accelerator, City Convene, and City Coach. To welcome Reggie, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To connect about leadership development email email@example.com.
Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is an approach to community transformationin which those who work for community change do so by working with local leaders rather than delivering services to them or for them. I first learned about this approach while leading a city movement in Muncie, IN in the early 1990’s. Simply defined, ABCD is a way to find and mobilize resources a community already has. This approach is central to transforming communities and became an important part of my DMin at Bakke Graduate University in Transformational Leadership in the Global City. At the end of this post is a 4 minute video of Rev. Andy Sytsma explaining ABCD principles.
Asset Based Community Development is always rooted in a local community and draws on the assets within the community. In this way local knowledge, understanding, gifting and calling is strengthened, so that people are empowered and the community is strengthened. Below is the story of how ABCD principles are being applied through the Old Town Spring Heights Task Force in Spring, TX.
Rev. Andy Sytsma is the pastor of New Life Christian Reformed Church in Spring, TX, a city of 53,000 about 30 miles north of Houston. The older part of Spring grew up along the railroad that still runs through town. The newer portions of this fast growing small city are much more upscale than the older portions of town. Old Town Spring is composed of storefront merchants and a residential community across the tracks that only recently was named, Old Town Spring Heights. This is a community of roughly 600 residents and eighty homes surrounded on three sides by a sub-division. Old Town Spring Heights was established in 1885. The first church was formed in 1902. In the Peaceful Rest Cemetery, former slaves are buried. For many years, it was known by most of the residents of Spring as the community “across the tracks.”
Old Town Spring Heights is:
- Mostly senior citizens raising children, whose parents are not present for a variety of reasons.
- Economically challenged.
- 80% African American with the rest being Hispanic and Anglo
- Composed of hard working shop owners, business persons, ranchers, and farmers.
The ABCD effort began when Rev. Sytsma’s predecessor in 2006, Rev. John Medendorp, began prayer walking in Old Town Spring. He decided to cross the tracks to Old Town Spring Heights and quickly became aware of the crack houses, gangs and other issues faced by this community.
One day, while prayer walking, Pastor John connected with Pastor Frank Callaway of True Vine Missionary Baptist Church, a practical-minded former business person. Both sensed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something. Together they believed that they could make a difference.
This led to the formation of the Old Town Spring Heights Task Force in 2006 that included the leadership of five churches (2 Methodist, 2 Baptist, and 1 Christian Reformed Church). Today there are seven churches involved in the Task Force, an example of Christian unity in action.
They began their collaboration with activities like prayer walks, days in the park, a monthly worship service on the 3rd Sunday of each month. Church pastors now swap pulpits and the churches have built a sense of unity in mission. On the first Sunday of each month there is an assembly of the residents of the community in which the question is asked, “What do you want to do together?”
The nature of this meeting is like a Home Owners’ Association. Out of these sessions, so far, Old Town Spring Heights has engaged in several community initiatives…
10 benefits from Asset Based Community Development.
- A community garden initiative is now growing fresh fruits and vegetables.
- A New Identity for the Community: the naming of the community as Old Town Spring Heights. The group put up a sign and the identity of the community helped residents begin to dream about what could be.
- Street Lights: The residents asked for street lights and the churches worked with Xcel Energy to put street lights in the community. They held a service called “Jesus is the Light of the World.” At the end of the service, they lit the street lights for the first time.
- Honoring the Past: Peaceful Rest Cemetery had become overgrown through lack of maintenance. The churches got the cemetery designated as a historical landmark. The people of the community now have become stewards of this important and sacred place.
- Seniors Activities: At the local community center, activities for the seniors of the community were begun.
- Police/Community Relations Improved: Criminal and drug issues were addressed by inviting the County Sheriff’s office to have a regular presence in the community. Old Spring Antioch Baptist Church hosted a meeting with local police officers and community residents to improve communications between the community and police.
- Health Initiative: The churches are offering a free health clinic in the community.
- Community Clean up: Heavy trash pick up days.
- Learning Center: A learning center for kids, youth, and adults grew from community initiative.
- Infrastructure: The sewage and water system has been inadequate, so that rains often brought flooding. Engineers from churches are addressing this with county and city authorities to solve the problems.
Marilyn Lee has an MBA. She has all the skills a growing business would want. She has chosen to work with one of the world’s largest enterprises, the church. She is investing her time in the work of the whole church taking the whole gospel to all of Houston through Loving Houston, a Christian nonprofit focused transforming Houston by helping churches serve local public schools. In the video below, Marilyn tells her story and how she has learned to follow Jesus’ example of meeting people’s real and felt needs and calling them to follow Him.
This 13 minute story was a part of GoodCities’ City Convene Conference in Houston, TX in April, 2015. Our next City Convene Conference will be held in Cincinnati on September 21-22. Click the button below for registration information.
Tweet this! “The complex web of factors that present as needs in people’s lives are so much bigger than one pastor, one church, or one ministry.”
My key take away from Marilyn Lee: Sin and brokeness are complex and create dysfuntional relationships between people and within institutions. It will take govenrment officials, economic experts, business strategists, nonprofit service providers, and people of faith and good will in all types of institutions working collaboratively; using collective impactmodels, with a common agenda to solve each complex problem. Only together will we see cities be transformed into places of shalom and wholeness where people flourish and experience God’s grace.
Last week, David Brooks wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times (June 30, 2015) titled, The Next Culture War. In his column, Brooks advocated for the kind of work that Christian leaders are quietly engaged with in cities all over America.
Brooks’ focus was on the decline in Christianity in the United States, the smaller share of Evangelicals in the U.S. electorate, and the recent Supreme Court decision supporting gay marriage. He took the opportunity to advocate a significant shift for social conservatives to make from the front lines of the current culture wars to offering collaborative service, social and spiritual capital in their cities and communities.
As Americans, Christians are often conflicted when deeply held moral and ethical positions are overridden by elections and/or court decisions. However, being an American and being a Christian represent two very different identities. Recent decisions on public policies should help Christians understand their cultural context and live counter-culturally.
Brooks wrote, “Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.” The culture war makes people, who should be known for profound love and a commitment to equality and justice, appear to be neither loving nor just.
He writes, “Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commmitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.” He could substitute “Evangelical Christians” for his use of the term “social conservatives.” However, it’s good that he does not, because many of us find our place on the political spectrum to be somewhere between conservatives and liberals, who have become so polemic that sensible public policy seems to get lost in the rhetoric.
Here’s where Christian leaders’ work in cities and David Brooks’ viewpoint dovetail. It’s when he writes, “The defining face of social conservativism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spritutal poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.” I would add, Those are the people who seek the peace and prosperity of their city and offer hope.
When we take an approach that is innovative and collaborative that focuses on “what people care about” in cities and communities, Christians will enter the public square and find they become valued partners. I’ve written a short e-book about how this is already taking place in a number of cities and to offer a method that will give many thousands of people an opportunity to engage in helping every city to become a good city; to move toward city transformation in ways that help repair the fabric of our communities and, as David Brooks writes, “…to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.”
Free eBook: Multiply Volunteers and Resources
The ebook, Multiply Volunteers and Resources, is being offered as a valuable tool to engage leaders throughout your city or community in signiicant work that addresses causal issues, not just the symptoms. Click the button here or in the side bar to download your copy today.
A Place Where Collaboration is Born
Catalyst is a monthly gathering of leaders and influencers in the Modesto area who believe they can make the biggest difference in their community by collaborating and working together! This Christian faith-based group is an outgrowth of the City Ministry Network (CMN) and meets monthly with about a hundred leaders at CrossPoint Church.
Marvin Jacobo, the CMN Executive Director says “We welcome anyone to come and contribute. Our primary audiences are leaders, team members and volunteers in Nonprofits and Churches. There is also a focus on leaders in Education, Business, Media, Government, Neighborhoods & the Arts (many of whom are active in nonprofits and churches).” These collaborations often result in collective impact in key areas of city life.
I recently visited Modesto to evaluate the impact of the 2011 GoodCities Engagement/Exploration Process known as the Community Leadership Survey. I interviewed twenty leaders who were either interviewed or were interviewers in this process. Most reported that following this work, the Christian Ministry Network was strengthened as a leadership organization that gives birth to collaborative work in Modesto around critical issues. Catalyst Modesto has become one of their primary monthly meetings where Christian Collaborations are birthed or accelerated. Below is a list of some of the organizations/movements that have taken hold.
- Love Modesto
- Love Your Neighborhood
- Pray Modesto
- Recovery Modesto
- The Jobs Cohort
CMN has become known as a leadership group that is in touch with the people and issues of Modesto. The regular meetings of Catalyst let people know that they are commited to facilitating collaborations that will further the peace and prosperity of people in the city (Jer. 29:7) while pursuing a John 17 vision for Christian unity. This can happen in your city, too! Download our Top Ten Books List on City Transformation and to learn more about the movement. Contact Glenn@goodcities.net for more information about how GoodCities can help you take the next steps on this journey.
Earlier this week, March 31-April 1, I had the privilege of leading the South Central GoodCities Leadership Gathering. This year it was an all Texas affair held at Antioch Community Church
in Waco. We had city teams represented from Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Waco. One of the great joys for me was that over half of the leaders there were in their twenties and thirties and they were eager to learn and grow in their abilities to build effective, purposeful coalitions in their cities.
In the next few posts, I plan to highlight several of these younger leaders with videos so that others can get a sense of what is important to them and learn why they are involved in city movements. Below is a three minute video of Josh Lawson, Director of Community Engagement for Antioch Community Church.
Jimmy Siebert, the Sr. Pastor at Antioch, realized that with his plate already filled with responsibilities at the church and around the world, he needed help in connecting with other community leaders of churches, in nonprofits, government, and marketplace. Josh has a great collaborative heart and wants to see a purposeful John 17 unity between Christians in Waco so that the gospel is expressed holistically. In this clip, Josh talks about the growing fellowship of church leaders. Together they are providing mentors to the public schools in Waco at the Superintendent’s request.
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.
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.
City movements in large cities with large numbers of Christians present unique challenges for leaders of city movements. The church is usually highly decentralized with many different approaches to ministry and worship. Each congregation and ministry are autonomous in pursuing their respective missions. One of the exciting developments in our time is that many of these groups are coming together for synergistic efforts that will impact key areas that help leaders of cities address needs and move toward a strategic vision.
On the first Friday of each month I meet with a cohort of international leaders on the Global Urban Leaders Conference Call. It is an hour filled with stories of what works in the field of grass tops city movements of Christian leaders working with people of good will to impact their respective cities. Last Friday, December 6, Gary Kinnaman (pictured at right), Billy Thrall (pictured below), and I were asked to talk about the city movement in Phoenix. Gary is serving as Pastor-At-Large, sent by the church he served for over twenty years to serve Christ, and to network the church in Greater Phoenix. Billy is an urban pastor who works with ministries, business, and government leaders to do community development work. Both are strategic spiritual leaders, strong networkers, and articulate communicators.
FSG and the Stanford Social Innovation Review advocate for the formation of backbone organizations for collective impact. This is at the heart of developing a healthy city movement from our perspective at GoodCities. It can only be accomplished after sufficient work is done in the Exploration phase which develops both baseline measurements and deep relationships among key players in the private, public and social sectors of a city.
FSG notes that to achieve large-scale change through collective impact (rather than limited change through isolated impact) there must be five key conditions for shared success.