City Transformation through Closing the Employment Gap

Today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I spent the morning reading and reflecting on the Civil Rights Movement; considering what has been accomplished and what remains unfinished.
As he proposed the Voting Rights Act (1965), President Johnson said, “Even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over.” Never had truer words been spoken.
Jon Meacham wrote, “In a new report, the National Urban League is using the mark of 50  years since the march (on Washington) to measure the state of black America. In terms of education, the league notes that the high school completion gap has closed by 57 points, the number of African Americas in college has tripled, and there are now five college graduates for every one in 1963. When it comes to standards of living, the percentage of African Americans living in poverty has fallen 23 points (the figure for black children is 22%) and homeownership among blacks has increased 14%.”
“Then there are the all too familar failures. ‘In the past 50 years,’ the Urban League reports, ‘the black-white income gap has only closed by 7 points (now at 60%). The unemployment rate has only closed by 6 points (now at 52%).’ (Only at 100% will the gap have disappeared.) Overall, the racial unemployment ratio is unchanged since 1963, at ‘about 2-to-1–regardless of education, gender, region of the country or income level.’ These numbers as well as enduring inequalities in the criminal justice system…suggest that neither the march nor the movement isreally done.” (Meacham, Jon and Rhodan, Maya. “One Man.” Time, August 26/September 2, 2013; Vol. 182, No. 9, 2013, p. 43).
Cultural change involves far more than legislation or policy. In this case, it involves significant bridgebuilding through relationships and skill building through education and training. GoodCities is working with leaders from 15 cities to create good jobs and close the employment gap. It’s a critical piece of city transformation.
Above is a photo I took of a portion of Frank J. Brown’s sculpture, Living the Dreamin Madison, WI. This part of the piece depicts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching in a heavy robe. Glenn Barth

Unlikely Partnerships: Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

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.

Transforming Communities through Unity, Betrayal, Brokeness, and Grace

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.

Unlikely Partnerships: Churches and Public Schools

In the last year, church and public school partnerships have really taken off in cities all over the U.S. With the creation of the documentary Undivided ( that tells the story of the five year old partnership between Southlake Church and Roosevelt High School in Portland, OR, both churches and underperforming public schools seem to have caught the bug.

During my recent trip to Phoenix, I interviewed Billy Thrall, the Director of CityServe Arizona. He brought the topic up in my interview with him and I excerpted the video clip for your interest. It’s one more way that church leadership is creating unlikely partnerships that contribute to city transformation.

City Transformation in the UK through Church Unity

Gather is the name of a church unity movement in the UK led by my friend, Roger Sutton. He recently said, “We have just entered the post secular age.” God has quietly been bringing Christians together in unity in the UK over the last 10 years and until Roger began to look for these leadership groups in cities, each one thought they were unique.

Roger was sent out by the Evangelical Alliance to look and see what God was doing in cities throughout Great Britain. So far, in every city he has explored, he has found a church unity movement praying for and serving the people of their city. (3 minute video of Roger Sutton further down in article.)

The Sunset of Secular Welfare & the Rise of Church Unity

The people of God in unity serving the people of each town or city comes as the sun sets on much of the secular welfare system in the UK. Due to the financial crisis of the last 5 years, the British government has instituted austerity measures which drastically cut back government services. However, central to the mission of the church throughout history is compassion for the poor. In many cities, the church is coming to the aid of those in need.

It’s a story that has flown under the radar. Good news doesn’t sell in age of our market-driven media. Yet, it is very good news that the churches in towns and cities are coming together and that their sense of mission is being rekindled as a result.

Roger spoke at our City Advance 2013 in New York City at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, Oct. 9. I caught 3 minutes of his talk on my iPhone video. It’s here so you can hear from him yourself.