Alexis Christensen and Ryn Farmer both received their Masters in Social Work from Baylor University in 2012. That year they both went to work for the Waco Community Development Corporation as Community Organizers. Ryn works in the neighborhoods of East Waco and Alexis works in North Waco.
A key quality that makes each of them effective in their asset based community development approach is that they are good listeners. Alexis says, “I have the privilege of hearing the visions and dreams of community members for their neighborhoods and work with them to translate those dreams into reality.”
Each of them are helping connect church volunteers to schools in the neighborhoods they work with. In the 2.5 minute video below, Alexis tells the story of volunteers from Calvary Baptist Church and the families of students in West Avenue Elementary School. Ryn tells how one young girl at J.H. Hines Elementary School was impacted by a volunteer from Pleasant Olive Missionary Baptist Church.
Both are stories of how social indicators are moved by the caring actions of people who put their faith into action. The outcomes are seen in local community development that is transforming communities and creating good cities.
Grant Skeldon and Edwin Robinson are two emerging generation leaders in Dallas who are working to engage folks in their late teens and early twenties in a gospel movement. Their shared goal is city transformation. Grant serves as the director of Initiative: a network of young Christians supporting a local church movement that is a part of the umbrella leadership of Unite. Initiative seeks to “connect passions, expose needs, and empower young Christians to transform Dallas with the gospel through their gifting.” There are approximately 4,800 churches in Dallas. Grant and the 24 member staff of Initiative are dreaming big. They hope to engage many young Christians from these churches in their monthly citywide meetings. (Grant and Rebbecca Walls, Executive Director of Unite are pictured on the left.)
With Grant in the 4.5 minute video below is Edwin Robinson, the Young Adults and Singles Pastor at Concord Church. They are connecting to Christian young adults with an emphasis on strengthening their various giftings and callings. Initiative is not only young, but multicultural. Their April 28th meeting will focus on Creatives: For the City and Gospel and is being held at Concord Church in South Dallas where there is a concentration of Black and Hispanic young adults. This meeting engages one of several channels of influence that emarging leaders are engaged with for community transformation. Grant and Edwin discuss Initiative and their commitment to multicultural partnerships through Initiative in the following video.
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.
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.
Ben Sanders and his wife Sarah serve as Co-Directors of the Campus Christian Center (3C) at ASU in Tempe, AZ. The Campus Chrisian Center is a large converted 1920’s era house that 3C is leasing from the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church denomination. 3C also has a book store across the parking lot that served as their on campus office until they began leasing this new larger facility about a year ago.
Today, the two buildings represent a significant resource for seven ministries and churches that work closely with 3C as a Christian witness and worshiping presence on the Arizona State University campus. Ben and Sarah have a clear Christian focus both in their campus ministry and in the community. They have spent their lives seeking the purposeful unity of the church in Tempe and Phoenix. (See 4 minute interview video below).
During the two hours I spent with Ben touring their facilities, I met the leaders of a new church plant who were holding their first service ever in 3C that evening, two young women from the Gila River Indian Community who had come to see a Christian Movie premier release, and Ben Joseph, who for twenty years has been doing ministry among the many international students at the University.
The President’s Interfaith and Community Campus Challenge
In 2011, President Obama announced The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which offered students and community leaders the opportunity to work and serve their community together. Ben and Sarah took the opportunity to bring students of faith together with students of good will to serve in a variety of initiatives that would benefit Tempe and Phoenix and to gain exposure to the significant work of the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership centers in each of the thirteen federal departments where they exist.
So far, this has given Ben and the University opportunities to work on issues of sustainability with leaders from the EPA. They are taking a leadership role in the Global Institute of Sustainability Festival in February which will be held on campus. A representative from the EPA Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Center will participate in this event.
3C has also tapped into the Department of Education’s initiative “Together for Tomorrow.” This initiative encourages churches and faith-based organizations to partner with schools in a variety of ways that includes tutoring and mentoring.
Ben encourages students to step into the front lines of fighting poverty and homelessness. Eleven small groups of students and faculty are working with the Open Table to come alongside the homeless and the poor.
These shared initiatives that fall under The President’s Interfaith and Community Campus Challenge are engaging community and campus in what Ben calls, “Shared Solutions for the Common Good.” Here’s a short (3:45 minutes) video where Ben tells about this important work that contributes to community transformation.
Last week, I visited with Gary Kinnaman during my visit to Phoenix, AZ as a part of preparing for our GoodCities Leadership Gathering February 18-20 at Christ’s Church in the Valley. Gary and I stayed up late one evening talking about how ministry is often painful even when it is going well.
At one point, Gary said, “I’ve never been persecuted by a Muslim, an Atheist, a Mormon (I live in a largely Mormon community), but I have had lots of pain in the church.” Immediately I knew that Gary and I had walked a similar path as a pastors and leaders. If we’re honest with ourselves, we each know that the leadership journey involves betrayal and brokeness. (Video clip of Gary Kinnaman on next page).
The Apostle Paul Experienced Betrayal and Brokeness, yet Offered Grace
Gary opened his Bible and shared with me that we’re not the first church leaders to experience betrayal and brokeness. In 2 Timothy 4:7-17, the Apostle Paul tells of his experiences with betrayal, brokeness, and loneliness in pursing his calling. Even in his brokeness he offered grace for those who had hurt and abandoned him.
Gary was speaking to my heart and I would guess that for many who are in church leadership or leading a city movement, a gospel movement that involves deep collaboration and purposeful christian unity, his words will touch a deep part within you as well.
With this in mind, I captured a few minutes of what Gary was sharing on video. Take a look at this seven minute piece. You’re not alone.