Today is part 2 of 3 blog posts sharing some "Urban Ministry Strategies" which are somewhat related to leadership. Most of these thoughts are related to how Christian leaders make a positive change in the community they live and work in. Enjoy!
While reading, A Heart for the Community I have enjoyed learning about the importance of listening, which many of the contributing writers emphasize in their work. As I have learned from one of my professors, “Nothing will work all the time, but something will work some of the time.” Listening seems to be the key component in every inner city neighborhood because it helps ministers learn and realize what the neighborhood needs.
An example is from the chapter, “’Exegeting’ Your Community: Using Ethnography to Diagnose Needs” where John Fuder uses the example of how Nehemiah “gets the news about the state of disrepair of Jerusalem, he goes out and conducts research, thoroughly ‘inspecting the walls’ (Neh. 2:13,15). He then [emphasis added] builds community.” Fuder helps us to realize that Nehemiah practices listening to and researching the community he is about to serve. He then begins to build the community only after he has done his research and listened.
Another common attitude I have noticed is that the contributors of A Heart for the Community have a strong belief in the people who live in their communities to help fix problems. In the chapter, “New Wineskins: Paradigm Shifts for the Church,” the writers tell us that, “Every community, no matter how outwardly desperate, has assets and contributions.” The writers continue, “Coaching is the process of coming alongside a person or team to help them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry, and then cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that agenda become a reality.” This is great to read and see because, as the Bible tells us, out of our hearts come the words and actions we speak. If we have views of the people in our neighborhood that they cannot do anything without us, it is going to show in what we say and do. Instead, the best and most effective way to help our neighborhoods is to express our belief in them and their ability to make change and be leaders.
One question I have for the contributors of A Heart for the Community is, when working in a neighborhood how do you know when you have listened enough to start to organize people around a vision or a problem? If all we do is go into a community to listen to the needs and problems, then we are not ministers, we are researchers. My question is how, do we gauge the community and sense when we have listened to them to the point that we are ready and they are ready to start organizing the community together to make change?
Another question I have for these contributors is, if we are going to believe that our community has “assets and contributions” that will help improve their neighborhood, how do we encourage and motivate the community to act on those assets and contributions? I can easily see communities and neighborhoods who do not care very much about where they live and how it is. Yes, the people there have many assets and contributions they can share, but what if they are not willing to share them? I remember an instance at United Way of Stanislaus County where one of our funding committees were meeting talking about how we could improve the Airport District in Modesto which is known as one of the two “ghetto” areas of our city. Members of our community brainstormed ideas and ways we wanted to help the Airport District. But the reality is that no one on our committee was from that part of the city, and the people who work and live there do not care very much. They have been content with the way things are and there has not been much desire for them to improve their neighborhood. I know and others know that the people living in that area have tremendous potential to change where they live, but how do we get the people living and working in that area to see potential they have and act on it?
 Ibid., 136.
 Matthew 12:34-35.