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.  

Two Emerging Generation Leaders Transforming Communities

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.

The Arts, Job Creation, and Community Transformation in Italy

Tonight on All Things Considered, a story that demonstrates how Christians involved in the arts in the second, third, and fourth centuries were brought together with impoverished youth by a visionary priest to restore both the artistic creations and prosperity of this younger generation. Christopher Livesay in his story, “Under the Streets of Naples, A Way Out for Local Kids”, reports on how Don Antonio Loffredo arrived in the rough and tumble Sanita neighborhood of Naples ten years ago and “…found three levels of frescoes, chapels, and cubicles beneath the neighborhood’s trash-strewn streets.”

Don Loffredo began to engage the youth in their teens to help him clean out these early Christian catacombs and reveal the artistic treasures within. In the process, the youth created a thriving business that today employs forty. “Before the the full-scale makeover, roughly 5,000 visitors came per year. Now it’s up to 40,000.”

This is a prime example of how community transformation occurs through asset based community development. This is the missional church at its best. The outcomes in work like this move the social indicators and create good cities.The 5 minute story of community transformation combines an appreciation for the arts and job creation. Click here to listen to this compelling story.

Emerging Leaders Launch "Initiative" A Gospel Movement in Dallas

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.