How to Work with Others to Change Your Community
- Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Shane Claiborne & John M. Perkins's new book, Follow Me to Freedom: Living as an Ordinary Radical, (Regal Books, 2009).
If God has given you a desire to take up a cause in your community - from empowering the poor, to reconciling people in conflict - you'll be much more effective working with others than alone. Significant and lasting improvements can result when you learn how to work together well in teams.
Here's how you can build skills as both a leader and a follower to help change your community for the better:
Build real relationships. Rather than just trying to help people through a temporary service project and then losing contact with them, aim to develop meaningful and lasting friendships with the people you hope to help. Commit to being a stable presence in your community, giving to others over time. Ask God to bring you and the people you reach out to together in unity, so that all of you can draw closer to Him through your friendships with each other.
Follow a clear vision. Ask God to give you a clear vision for your work together. Individually, ask how your gifts intersect with your community's needs. Together, ask where God wants you to go as a community. Challenge each other to seek God until His answers become clear. Once you discover the vision, articulate it and encourage everyone in the community to embrace it as their own.
Listen well. Listen carefully to God as speaks to you about the work He wants you to do. Listen to the people you're hoping to help - to their words, but also to the feelings behind what they say. Let them know that you want to work for their best interests.
Affirm people. Affirm who people truly are - beloved children of God who've been made in His image - and by doing so, you'll help them reclaim their dignity. This will motivate them to work to help themselves while you're also working to help them.
Take action. When you feel disturbed by some injustice, don't wait for others to right the wrongs. Take action yourself whenever you sense God leading you to do so. Remember that it takes more than just a good idea to change a situation; it takes someone willing to act on it to get progress started. Resolve today to become a person God can use to transform your street, neighborhood, workplace, school, church, and other parts of your community.
Move past fear. Don't let fear stop you from moving forward with the work God is calling you to do. Courage is not the absence of fear; it's the ability to follow your convictions in the face of fear. Pray for the strength you need to move forward when you feel afraid.
Be humble. Remember: It's all about God, not you. Don't let the importance of your work lead you to a prideful attitude that will render you ineffective. Always keep in mind that you're joining God in His work, and let your gratitude for how He is choosing to use you - despite your sins and weaknesses - motivate you to serve with humility. Keep in mind that your goal isn't a sense of achievement, an award, a word of praise, or even the specific changes you hope to see happen. Your real goal is to work for God's will to be done in your community.
Start where it hurts. Identify what's causing pain for the people you're trying to help, feel that pain with them, and lead them to the hope God offers them. Share stories of how God has healed your own brokenness, and be willing to struggle alongside others as they pursue healing for the pain in their lives.
Be the answer to some of your own prayers. Recognize that sometimes, when God urges you to pray for a particular situation, He wants to use you to be the answer to your prayers about it. So, when you pray for the hungry, donate to a local food pantry. When you pray for the unborn, welcome single mothers and adopt abandoned children. When you thank God for creation, plant a garden and buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. When you pray for the poor, invest your money into micro-lending programs.
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