Leadership for City Movements: Seven Signature Elements

This article is excerpted from Reggie’s most recent book, Kingdom Collaborators (2018). Visit www.goodcities.net to see other leadership resources for city gospel movement leaders.

Leading effective city movements requires leadership that has some very distinct qualities. Here are some of the most prominent characteristics of leaders who demonstrate these signature elements.

 

  1. They operate with a kingdom bias.  These leaders understand that God’s kingdom is his primary activity on planet Earth, his missional agenda for people to experience life as he intended.  Kingdom bandwidth stretches across all aspects of human flourishing – spiritual, social, economic, emotional – every part of human existence.  This reality pulls them into the breadth of community life to partner with God in the desire that his kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.”
  2. They pray for their city.  These leaders have the city on their heart – and in their prayers.  They are burdened by what they see around them and intercede passionately for their community.  These leaders often create prayer networks of others who are similarly moved to “seek the welfare of the city” as a spiritual stewardship.
  3. They foment dissatisfaction with the status quo.  Most leaders find themselves troubled by particular issues and concerns that get their attention and energy.  City movement leaders excel in the ability also to make other people similarly dissatisfied with conditions and situations that they feel need to be addressed.  This fomenting is strategic; in other words, these leaders demonstrate political savvy in knowing the right people to engage and how to turn agitation into positive action.
  4. They combine social and spiritual entrepreneurship.  Where other people only see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities.  Old problems present windows for new approaches and fresh solutions.  The only failure that entrepreneurs cannot accept is the failure to attempt change and progress.  Community leaders who create and lead movements that address key societal issues (literacy, human trafficking, economic development, etc.) realize that breakthroughs require the willingness to take risks.  Kingdom leaders view seemingly intractable societal ills as opportunities for inspiring hope and faith as they work for a better world.  Guided by this kingdom narrative they flip the dominant worldly script of pessimism and anxiety into one of promise and a preferred future.  
  5. They marry vision with action.  Successful city leader movers and shakers are not content just to paint pictures of what could be.  These insightful leaders understand that the dynamic of getting people dressed up with nowhere to go – fired up with dreams but no real plan for engagement – provides a sure recipe for cynicism and increased despondency.  Accordingly, they create on-ramps for people to join them in working toward the vision they inspire.  People are given options for how they can contribute to solutions, how they can take action to move the needle on issues that capture their interest.
  6. They call the party.  Leaders of impactful city movements are not Lone Rangers.  They are collaborative in their approaches, preferring a team strategy.  Equally important, they have the personal credibility for bringing people together to work on community initiatives.  They can put people at the table to work together.  Their capacity to do this comes from their having invested in developing relationships with leaders from other domains.  Leaders of city movements sublimate their own ego or their need to be the hero to allow other significant players into the effort.  Anywhere you find a cross-domain initiative addressing significant community issues, behind it will be a leader or group of leaders who practice high collaborative intelligence.
  7. They maintain a (pain-tinged) optimism.  Leaders of city movements demonstrate remarkable resiliency in the face of daunting challenge and inevitable setbacks.  Their firm grounding in God’s kingdom purposes enable them to soldier on with hope and faith and love.  

Start Here: Part 2 – Exploration to Engagement

In the first part of this two-part blog post, the focus was on discovering who God has brought to your city and what inner motivations has He planted in their hearts. In this second part the focus moves from discovery to engagement.

To solidify what you learned from the interviews, write a report based on what you and your team learned during your discussions with grass-tops leaders. Writing a report that can be shared with others is work that my Research Director and I often do at the request of city leaders. To move from discovery to engagement, you will want to have a professional document that serves as a milestone in your movement.

The people you interviewed will want to know what you learned from your conversations. Many will look to you and your team for guidance about how they might act on the inner motivations and passions they have shared with you.

Here are the final four steps that will take your work from discovery to engagement.

Hold a community report session: Invite those who you’ve interviewed, their families, friends, and other interested parties to a community report session. Have printed copies of the report on hand. Present the findings and offer an opportunity for those present to join a task force around 3-5 of the top identified pressing problems facing your city.

Launch task forces. Be sure to have one or two leaders for each of the top 3-5 identified pressing problems facing your city who are ready to greet those interested in joining a task force on one of the issues. The role of each of these groups is to discover what’s currently being done to address the issue. In the process, each task force may discover gaps in services, duplication of services, best practices that are under-resourced, and opportunities for developing an effective cross-sector collective impact strategy. (Check out our podcast on Axioms for Collaboration)

Become a learning organization. Ask the leaders of each task force to write a report based on their work about what is being learned and what they recommend. We recommend that members of the initial interview team form a steering committee to hear from the task force leaders and guide their next steps. In this way, the developing movement has an opportunity to grow in their understanding of how the ecosystems of the city are addressing critical issues.

Join with others whenever possible. Only launch something new if it is the only way forward. Our witness is best when it is incarnational after the pattern of Christ. We are at our best when we join with others who have a similar passion about a pressing issue in our city. If you do launch something new, be open to others joining with you who may not have a church home or who may not believe what you do. These kinds of friendships matter and become the bridge point for meaningful witness.

When you and your team become known as leaders who listen carefully to others and who are prayerfully looking to understand where God is leading, you will start processes that move the needle in areas critically important to the common good and to the work of God’s kingdom in your city. The process shared in these two posts builds relational equity (social capital) and alignment in a few areas. The experience gained will give you confidence to act when new opportunities for kingdom collaboration arise.

Start Here – Part 1: Exploration & Discovery

For more on this topic visit http://goodcities.net/resources/podcasts/ and select podcast 007 -“Three Stages for Movement Leaders”

Leaders often ask us “Where do we begin?” as they consider how to engage their communities in ways that result in measurable improvement. We have a bias toward the notion that God is already at work in every city. God understands the local context and has brought talented, gifted and motivated people to your city or community who are ready to advance Jesus’ redemptive vision for the common good. The place to start is discovering who God has brought to your city and what kinds of passions He has kindled in their hearts. So begin by asking good questions and becoming good listeners.

Collaborative leadership is the key to the long term well-being of cities according to a 2012 report by the Federal Reserve’s Community Affairs Division. At GoodCities, we have used our exploration and discovery process successfully to expand the quality and depth of relationships among people in cities where we work, launching a spirit of collaborative leadership that continues many years after the process began.

Below are the first five of nine steps in a process that will foster collaborative leadership in your city. These first five steps will help you and your team understand internal motivating factors that are already in the hearts and minds of key leaders in your city. (In the next post, we will delve into the last four steps that will move from discovery to engaging these leaders.)

Begin with prayer. We begin with a robust understanding that we serve a living God who desires that we would comprehend what He is doing. Our prayer lives need to be alive and attuned to the mind and heart of God for our city. Gather people you already know to pray together and to discern what God is up to in your city.

Form a team. As you pray, ask God to lead you in forming a team of people who are willing to join with you in having a series of one-to-one conversations that will reveal the inner passions of grass-tops leaders.

Make a list. Ask God to show you the grass-tops leaders He has in your city who influence others both formally and informally. Make lists of people who you see influencing others. Include people from government, nonprofit charities, churches, businesses, education, philanthropy, and healthcare. Your list doesn’t need to be comprehensive. If you plan to interview 100, begin with a list of 30-50. One of the questions you will ask, “Who else should we interview?” will build the remainder of your list.

Conduct interviews. Set a goal for each member of the team to interview two leaders each month. If you have 10 on your team this will result in 20 interviews being completed each month. Over a five-month period you will have completed 100 interviews. For the kinds of questions to ask in these interviews, contact us at info@goodcities.net. We can help you form a process that will reveal the inner passions of the people you interview. We recommend that the interview consist of no more than eight questions.

Write a report: Ask each of your interviewers to submit a report on each interview within 24 hours. This way the information will be fresh on the interviewer’s mind. When you have completed 100 interviews, write a report that reflects the answers to each of the questions asked. The report will reveal the level of agreement around several areas where those interviewed would like to move the needle in your city.

Reggie McNeal Joins GoodCities

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 reggie@goodcities.net. To connect about leadership development email info@goodcities.net.

Thirty Actions and Ideas that Create Good Cities

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.

Active Listening

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

Visual appreciation.

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.

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1965 Legislation's Impact Has Transformed America and Its Cities

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Immigration Act also known as the Hart-Celler Act of 1965. The most recent statistics show that 41.3 million immigrants live in the United States. The Migration Policy Institute defines immigrants as “…people residing in the United States who were not U.S. citizens at birth. This population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), certain legal nonimmigrants (e.g., persons on student or work visas), those admitted under refugee or asylee status, and persons illegally residing in the United States.” They post the following chart on their website.*

The Migration Policy Institute notes that the number of immigrants living in the US has recently reached historically high levels, however the percentage of immigrants to population has just reached the levels that were common prior to the 1921 Emergency Quota Act (The Immigration Restriction Act of 1921).

In 1965, the restrictions of 1921 were lifted when the Hart-Celler Act was passed with strong bi-partisan support with the aim in mind of doing away with racial and ethnic restrictions in the previous immigration law and opening the way for people who possessed needed intellectual and scientific skills to enter our workforce. On October 3, 1965, at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Hart-Celler Act into law saying, “This bill we sign today is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not restructure the shape of our daily lives or add importantly to either our wealth or power.” President Johnson’s statement could not have been farther off the mark.

Over the past 50 years, the bill has opened the door to much greater cultural diversity in the make-up of our nation and at the same time has made our nation more Christian. In his brilliant 2007 book,The Next Christendom, Phillip Jenkins wrote, “Far from what anyone could have dreamed at the time, the 1965 Immigration Act had vast consequences for American religion, especially Christianity. At least 66 percent of new immigrants are Christian, compared to just 8 percent Muslims.”

Change is difficult for anyone and greater cultural diversity has brought change. When my wife and I go for walks in local parks, we will often see pick-up cricket matches and soccer games while the nearby softball fields wait for organized evening games to start. Our neighborhood is composed of people of European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African descent.

Most American churches celebrate an old model of missions that aims at reaching the ends of the earth by sending and supporting overseas missionaries. As immigration has grown, America has become more diverse and the world has come to our cities. Many of these new residents are our fellow Christians. What would happen if these same institutions became missional churches with a local focus on the many peoples who have come to our cities? What would happen if American churches rolled out the red carpet to welcome Christians from the many parts of the world who have come to us? What would happen if both immigrants and long time residents worked to more thoughtfully welcome with Christian hospitality those who come from the many unreached people groups as refugees?

As GoodCities is seeking to make an impact, we are being sensitive to the need to better extend hospitality to immigrants. Leaders related to GoodCities are key bridge builders who are doing this work in a number of cities. Those that stand out in my mind are in Dallas through Unite Greater Dallas, Modesto through City Ministry Network, and Minneapolis through Transform Minnesota and Arrive Ministries.

Please share with us what Christians are doing in your city to welcome immigrants and refugees. We’d love to hear your stories. Join with us to hear these kind of stories at City Convene in Cincinnati, Sept 21-22.

City Convene

*(http://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/immigrant-population-over-time?width=1000&height=850&iframe=true accessed 8-24-2015).