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 email@example.com. To connect about leadership development email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m often asked, “What can I do to transform my city?” I’ve observed many different approaches during my years serving in this field. Often I find leaders not using an evidence-based approach toward bringing long term improvement spiritually, socially, educationally, or economically and the poor results reflect this. Teams are built and transformation occurs when leaders take actions that have proven their worth in creating good cities and communities over time. Actions that bring real long-term change engage cross-sector collaborative leadership.
Glenn Barth, President of GoodCities
I recently made a list of thirty powerful actions and ideas that have been proven to have spiritual, societal, economic, and individual transformational impact. I rated each action on its ability to impact these four areas and its ability to create cross-sector collaborative leadership. In these actions, the real power of Jesus’ John 17 prayer for our unity is revealed.
Throughout this year, I’ll write blogs that highlight and reveal each of these thirty evidence based practices and ideas. Here’s the first and one of the most powerful actions that will transform your city.
It was a hot Tuesday afternoon in August of 2004 when the leader of a major national ministry asked me what a coach should do to strengthen the work of local leadership teams in cities. I responded, “The first thing community coaches need to do is listen. Listening expresses a level of trust that local community leaders are in touch with God and their local context. Once you’ve heard from local leaders, tools from national ministries can be customized to fit local realities.”
The leader turned red and was more than a little irritated with the answer. He responded, “Our donors would never support this kind of approach. We need a program that coaches bring to each city. Donors won’t support listening!”
The leader put together a program and quickly found a number of donors to pay independent “coaches” to visit cities. They had slick marketing materials and in each of the cities they found a few folks willing to lead their pre-packaged program.
No lasting change occurred. Those who participated in the program busily did what they were asked, but in the end, it was a short term activity that brought no lasting change. It was driven from the outside, not personally and deeply owned by local leaders.
Active Listening tops the list because through it, we learn what God and people value in our city. Prayer is a form of active listening. Through prayer we begin in a place of humility so that when we listen to others, we can gain a sense of God’s leading as needs are revealed. The technique that I share in my ebook, Multiply Volunteers and Resources is an approach that requires active listening and reveals a way to engage leaders throughout your city in transformational work.
In 2005, I served as the President of the Leadership Division of Tentmakers. We taught people to listen with love. We spelled love, “LVV,” an acronym for active listening.
Look at the person.Give him or her
Verbal appreciation and
Local leaders I’ve coached in cities like Lansing, MI; San Antonio,TX; Modesto, CA and Florence, SC put together teams to actively listen to leaders from every channel of influence in the city. Each of these leaders has a significant network of people who they influence. Using open ended questions in an interview format they built relationships and at the same time learned what motivates and engages leaders in their area of their interest, using their calling, gifting, and strengths.
Using the skills of active listening, we encourage city leaders to develop open-ended questions that uncover…
- A sense of personal and professional mission;
- A person’s level of willingness to make a positive difference in his/hercity;
- What each one believes are the most pressing problems facing his/her city; and
- Ways he/she is already working to address these pressing problems.
These interviews help those who use active listening to learn the ways that the Holy Spirit already is moving in local leaders’ lives. Through listening, the interviewers learn what will motivate gifted and talented leaders to work in collaboration for the good of the city.
Active listening is a skill that leaders learn to use often and well. It networks people in relationships and reveals important information to engage people in service to their community. It is a skill that unleashes untold social capital. In the end, it transforms cities from the inside out by engaging leaders and those they influence in long-term vision, mission, and service.
Use the button below to download the eBook, Multiply Volunteers and Resources.
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.
In our recent GoodCities Leadership Gathering in Phoenix, Eric Swanson
introduced a creative approach when he gave a 20 minute presentation titled “City Transformation as a Platform” (his full presentation is available at the end of this post). His belief is that the real power of a decentralized network in a city is found in the many ways that people live out their callings and yet, unify under a city transformation
Swanson notes that people will find their place within a common vision if it serves their own self interest. He distinguishes between self interest and selfish interests by stating that self interest is a belief from those involved that they will get more out of being involved with the movement than through non-involvement. Selfish interest is a viewpoint that only engages because of a self-promoting ulterior motive (i.e. a sales rep who gets involved in a volunteer organization to make sales instead of to accomplish the goals of the volunteer organization.)
He compares this new approach to Web 2.0 which has radically changed our online experiences. Web 1.0 offered a way for people and organizations to share information about themselves with others. Web 2.0 offers an interactive experience where internet users pursue their interests and engage information and organizations to get what they are looking for. In Web 2.0 Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are four big platforms where internet users find what they need.
Swanson asks, “How can we be more like…
- YouTube not ABC?
- Wikipedia not Encyclopedia Britannica?
- Airbnb not Marriott Hotels?
- Twitter not Associated Press?
- A playground not Little League?
City movements become much more powerful when they lift a transformational vision that engages people and organizations in their self interest. Swanson listed the kinds of self interests that various parties within city movements hold deeply to give examples of why they may become involved. These self interests include:
When city transformation becomes a platform rather than only residing in an organization, the work of a city movement will experience new levels of effectiveness.
Download Slides From Eric Swanson’s City Transformation as a Platform
The full presentation below was recorded at our GoodCities Leadership Gathering. The video of Eric was pretty shaky, although the audio was very good, so this presentation shows a few stills of Eric interspersed throughout the presentation of his slide deck.
I was recently asked, “What do you think are the top 3 concerns of business, church, and civic leaders in city movements across the nation?” What I offered in response was not based on a survey, but rather on my observations with the city leadership teams I coach and work with at the conferences GoodCities holds throughout the year. Here’s what I wrote:
Not many city movements have all three of these leadership groups working together. I believe this is happening in a big way in Akron & Modesto, two cities of modest size. In Portland and Minneapolis, all three groups are engaged in targeted efforts around schools and jobs. However, in each of these cases, while there may be Christians from government involved, they will rarely be involved with a regularly convened covenant group of church, business and nonprofit Christian leaders. For that matter, in most cities, pastors meet with pastors. Business leaders meet with one another and with nonprofit leaders where they are volunteering or serving on a board of directors. Nonprofit leaders meet with one another when their purposes are best fulfilled through collective impact, but generally don’t meet together otherwise.
In each of these sectors, private, public, and social, there are leaders who are bridge builders and conveners. These folks have a larger vision for God’s kingdom influence in their city. In the public and private sector, these leaders operate discretely. In the church and nonprofit social sector the anchor churches and nonprofit organizations operate with as much publicity as they can muster because they are always looking to expand their constituencies. Individually, each leader carries within them first a concern for his or her home and family’s well-being, next a concern for the success and well-being of the entity in which he or she serves, and third a concern for the peace and prosperity of his or her city or community. These are the three main callings that each of us live into throughout our lives.
With this in mind, what are the top 3 most common shared concerns of Christians involved in collaborative leadership for the good of their city? Here is my list as I understand this (in no particular order).
1. The peace/shalom of the city or community (This includes issues of justice, mercy, and safety).
2. A prosperous economy (The economic well-being of the people).
3. The spiritual, intellectual, and emotional well-being of the people (This includes access to a good education, healthy families, aesthetic beauty, and an opportunity to learn of God’s reconciling love through a contextualized Christian witness.)
What are your thoughts? Do you have a list of the top three concerns as you have talked with many of these leaders?