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Lunch & Learn Recap

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At Tuesday’s Lunch & Learn we had the opportunity to hear from Robert (T-Ray) Manly from the Dallas Leadership Foundation.  During his talk, T-Ray shared with us how the Dallas Leadership Foundation has helped many neighborhoods across Dallas organize and build their capacity to create change.  The following are some of the highlights of the presentation:

How is DLF involved in neighborhoods?

Dallas Leadership Foundation operates in three three core areas: Neighborhood Revitalization, a Youth Leadership Movement, and Prison Collaboration.  All are focused on gospel-centered, common good transformation.

Why is the area of Neighborhood Revitalization critical to Dallas?

One primary reason is the future of our kids.  Neighborhood insecurity takes a toll on our children, and makes Dallas a difficult place for children to grow up and receive a quality education.  This perpetuates the cycle of lack of hope and well-being in our neighborhoods.  T-Ray cited these statistics on children in Dallas*:

  • Only 4% of high school seniors read at a 12th grade standard; only 1% compete in mathematics at a 12th grade standard
  • Just 42% students Dallas County are reading at or above grade level in the third grade (a key age indicator for determining future educational success)
  • Texas ranks next to last among states for hunger and child hunger
  • 29.3% of children in Dallas County (more than 190,000 total) live in families below the federal income poverty level.

*Greater Dallas Movement Day: Why Now? Fact Sheet

What learning has DLF developed to help come alongside neighborhoods that are seeking change?

One of the key ways that DLF serves is by helping identify neighborhood leaders and helping their creation of a Neighborhood Plan.  DLF invests a significant amount of time in identifying and empowering local leaders because, “Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.”

Characteristics of a neighborhood leader:

  • Has direction and vision
  • Keeps everything organized
  • Possesses the ability to motivate others
  • Builds on assets and addresses deficiencies
  • Includes everyone in the neighborhood
  • Knows how to get things done

As neighborhood leaders emerge, they become responsible for forming a leadership team that helps others become involved, shapes the organization and launches projects, and actively trains and empowers replacements to take leadership roles after them.  This establishes continuity and continued momentum for future neighborhood transformation.

Additionally, creating a Neighborhood Plan gives communities the opportunity to tell the story of their neighborhood, identify the assets and the needs present, and thoughtfully discuss how to move forward.

What are they keys for the early stages of neighborhood transformation?

Beyond identifying key leaders and stakeholders who will form a leadership team, those involved in the process should:

  • Determine jointly what areas encompass your neighborhood.  You must be able to define your boundaries in order to address the needs.
  • Begin with listening. Give people plenty of time and space to express what they’re seeing in the neighborhood.
  • Focus on the positive, but address the negative by asking, “What do we have to work with?”
  • Get everyone involved
  • Make a list of what needs to be done, and share progress with the group
  • Give yourself a few early wins, and don’t overwhelm the group with too many tasks at the beginning

In one example of how listening and a small win that led to a big impact, T-Ray shared that in a neighborhood they were partnering with, there was a nice local park that seemed to be underutilized.  When talking with a mother of young kids who lived across the street from the park, it became clear that parents resisted letting their kids visit the park because of dangerously fast traffic on the surrounding roads.  The neighborhood worked with DLF to petition for the installation of speed-bumps around the park, and the area is now a more popular and safe destination for local residents.

For those interested in starting small with neighborhood collaboration, consider joining an online neighborhood resource like www.nextdoor.com, which provides an informal but effective way to begin connecting with neighbors, and discussing the needs and assets of your neighborhood.

As BODY continues looking for ways to mobilize the Church for the well-being of Oak Cliff, let us know how these topics are resonating with you, and of other potential partners like Dallas Leadership Foundation who can help make community transformation a reality.

DLF Lunch & Learn Presentation

Talking Before Transforming

In preparation for next week’s Lunch & Learn on the topic of how the church can be involved in neighborhood leadership development , we’ll be sharing a couple posts about the church actively engaging the community.  The article reviewed here, entitled “Before ‘Transforming’ Your Neighborhood, Talk to Your Neighbors” was originally published by Christianity Today in 2012.

“We learned to talk to each other.”

That’s what Christopher C. Smith identifies as the first step of transformation for his neighborhood of Englewood, near Indianapolis.  Long known as a neighborhood in decline with the highest vacant housing rate in the state, Englewood has recently experienced steady improvement largely thanks to the efforts of a local church.

But it came through an unfamiliar – and sometimes uncomfortable – process.

Smith, a member of Englewood Christian Church (which he describes as, “a failed megachurch that spiraled down with the neighborhood,”) says a turning point occurred when several years ago the church replaced a Sunday evening service with a weekly, open conversation on theological topics.  Discussions were sometimes heated, but the forum eventually ignited a shared vision and passion for community engagement.  This flowed into conversations with neighbors and began turning the wheels for collective action.

Smith says of the process:

“…Our church community began finding new ways to converse with our neighbors. We began to get past both frantic reaction and passive resignation to our neighborhood’s decline, and take meaningful steps that flowed out of the convictions that we found we shared in common. Familiar theological terms started to become more than hollow religious language. We realized our conversations were about more than theological terminology—they were about God’s call for us to enter into the reconciliation and flourishing of our neighborhood.

Working as individuals and congregations for the good of Oak Cliff, let’s not forget the importance of having theological backbone for our actions, and of gaining a broader understanding and perspective of God’s plan for Oak Cliff by fostering unity.

Lunch & Learn: Developing Neighborhood Leadership

Be A Part Of Loving Oak Cliff

As a follow-up to our Fall 2013 Neighboring series, join us on Tuesday, March 4, at BODY’s bimonthly Lunch & Learn meeting.

The power of neighboring goes far beyond friendly get-togethers and barbecues. Join us as we continue learning how to strengthen Oak Cliff by coming alongside those already at work in our neighborhoods and helping develop new community leaders.

Our speaker, Robert (T-Ray) Manly, Neighborhood and Community Development Director for the Dallas Leadership Foundation (www.dlftx.org), will share the methods DLF has developed to equip grassroots leadership that lead to real community transformation.

Learn more how the church can catalyze this latent capacity in our neighborhoods!

11:30am-12noon – Lunch (bring a brown-bag) | 12 noon – 1pm – Neighborhood Presentation & Discusison

Location: Christ Episcopal Church (534 West Tenth Street, 75208)

March L&L Flyer

Giving Thanks for the Body of Christ in Oak Cliff!

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

– Colossians 3:15

 

As we approach Thanksgiving, I give thanks for God’s people and the congregations of Oak Cliff.  I am grateful… 

Now you personally may not have had as many brushes with the congregations of our neighborhood.  However, we all benefit from the work and witness of these churches.  Through the collective work of the Oak Cliff body of Christ, the discouraged receive hope, the hungry are feed, the sick are cared for, and the good news of Jesus goes forth!

Therefore, I invite you to the 6th Annual Oak Cliff Community-Wide Thanksgiving Service.  We gather this Sunday evening, November 17, at Cliff Temple Baptist Church (125 Sunset Avenue).  We’ll join together in worship, listening to God’s word, and celebrating what God is doing among and through the Church of Oak Cliff!

Spread the word, invite a friend, and give thanks for the body of Christ in Oak Cliff!

 Thanksgiving Promo 2013

CELEBRATE | Joining Community Gatherings

Fall is the season of holidays.  While many of us are busy planning gatherings for family and friends, take a moment to remember that good neighboring can be as simple as saying “Yes” to invitations you receive, and joining what is already happening in your community.

The saying goes, “It’s easier to catch a wave than to make one,”  and this holds true in neighboring as well.  Why not show appreciation for what your neighbors are already doing to form community?  Accepting invitations and showing up at events are some of the best ways to see your neighbors in their own contexts and to learn their stories.

Formal Gatherings

If your neighbors have parties and invite you, take them up on the offer!  Consider the number of times Jesus joined people in their homes.  Beyond participating in a social custom to be polite,  Jesus recognized the power of meeting people on their own spaces, on their own terms.  By accepting their hospitality and showing he was comfortable in their homes,  they in turn became more open with him.  More often than not in scripture, these encounters were deeply transformational for the people with whom Jesus interacted (Luke 7:36-50, Luke 19:1-10).

Another formal gathering context for you might be a neighborhood association.  By virtue of living in a certain area, you have the opportunity to work with other homeowners to do common good projects for your neighborhood.  Whether it’s a small group or a vibrant association, lend your help and see how your participation strengthens those relationships and serves your neighborhood.

Informal Gatherings

Even if you don’t have the benefit of neighbors who are party planners or a neighborhood association in the area, our community is full of ways to be engaged in getting to know those around you.  Where is life happening in your neighborhood, and how can you join?  Below are some links to find out about local opportunities.

Follow Jesus’ example and take advantage of the myriad of ways to be intentional in your community by accepting invitations celebrate and taking the initiative to be engaged.  Join community gatherings, and party with a purpose.

Resources

Go Oak Cliff: http://www.gooakcliff.org/

Oak Cliff Blog (Dallas Morning News): http://oakcliffblog.dallasnews.com/

The Advocate: http://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/

Halloween: The Perfect Neighboring Holiday!

I love Halloween!  My mind fills with memories of wandering East Kessler – the annual visit with Mrs. Fry, Marty demanding a “trick” before the “treat.”  Dressing up, staying up late, and candy – what could be better!

For most of the last decade, Laura and I have thrown a big Halloween party for our friends and family.  As the invite list has grown, our 1920’s Craftsman has reached its limit.  Thank goodness the party intentionally spills into the streets.

Halloween and neighboring go hand and hand.  For what other time of the year is it expected to go from house to house, engaging and providing hospitality among neighbors.  Even if you don’t go out, your street comes to you!

Therefore, with a week to go, I encourage you to consider how you can make this Halloween an intentional practice in neighboring.  With a little effort, you connect with some new folks, celebrate good weather and good times, and create something of lasting value in your neighborhood.

“Trick or Treat | Hit the Street | Give your Neighbors a Chance to Meet!”   :) 

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12 Simple Ways to be on Mission this Halloween

Originally posted by Jeff Vanderstelt on the Verge Network

This coming Halloween offers a great opportunity for many to engage in new relationships with those around us or to revisit some old relationships with new missional intentionality. Regardless of what you think of the holiday and it’s roots, the culture we have been sent by Jesus to reach is going to celebrate Halloween. We all have in front of us a wide open door for missionary engagement in our neighborhoods. I want to encourage you not to miss out on the opportunity.

If you are looking to be more intentionally engaged this year, I want to present you with a few ideas for how you can more effectively walk through the open door that Halloween presents to us as Jesus’ missionaries.

BE HOSPITABLE: Don’t just give out candy

1. Give out the best Candy – Please, don’t give out tracks or toothbrushes or pennies…kids are looking for the master loot of candy. Put yourself in their shoes.

2. Think of the Parents – Consider having some Hot Apple Cider and pumpkin bread or muffins out for the parents who are bringing their little kiddos around the block. Make your entry-way inviting so they want to come closer and hang for a bit if possible.

3. Be Present – Don’t hide out all night. Come out to the door or hang out on the porch and if they stop to have some cider, get to know their names and where they live in the neighborhood.

4. Be Encouraging – Tell the kids you love their costumes and to have a great night. Practice building others up with words.

5. Party – If you’re really into it, you may want to throw a pre-Trick or Treating party. Provide dinner and drinks. Then, send the dads out trick or treating with the kids while the moms continue hanging with some hot apple cider, coffee or tea. Then reconvene with the parents and kids together to examine all of the loot (kids love to show their parents and other kids the loot).

6. Learn the Stories – If you are out Trick or Treating with the kiddos or staying back with the other parents, ask questions…get to know their stories. Pay attention to their hearts and their felt needs. Look for opportunities to serve them later. This is how I first got to know Clay (while Jayne was hanging with Kristi and the other moms). I learned his story while we were with the kids and Jayne got to know hers. This led to both of them eventually coming to faith in Jesus.

GO TO THEIR PLACE: Join what is happening elsewhere

7. Attend the Party – If others are throwing parties, you may want to join them. If so, bring drinks, food or whatever is needed. Then, serve by helping to clean up.

8. Join the Community – If your community has key events, join them and invite some neighbors to go with you (then get to know their stories along the way). Our area has a trick or treating event on a main street where all the businesses give out candy, the firemen give tours of the fire engines, etc. We go with a group of friends to this each year and consistently meet more people to reach out to.

9. Head to the “Watering Holes” – If you do not have kids or are not going to engage in the Trick or Treating activities or events, consider going to the local pubs, restaurants or clubs near you for their events and get to know the people there. Make it your goal to learn the story of at least one person who needs Jesus and walk away with some next steps on how to serve them. You will want to do this with others so that you don’t go it alone.

BE PRAYERFUL: Ask for the Spirit to led, guide and work

10. Pay Attention – Ask the Spirit to open your eyes and ears to the real needs around you.

11. Stay Dependent – Ask the Spirit to help you listen, care and serve those around you.

12. Open Doors – Ask the Spirit for open doors for new relationships and gospel conversations.

About the Author: Jeff Vanderstelt is one of the founding leaders of Soma Tacoma, a multi-expression, church-planting church. He serves at Soma Tacoma as an Elder, Missional Community Leader and Teacher, and oversees Leadership Development and Vision. He is also the Apostolic Movement and Visionary Leader of Soma, a family of churches spread throughout North America. Jeff is married to Jayne and together they love and shepherd their three children in gospel, life, and mission.  Follow on Twitter

Check out these other posts from the Verge Network connecting Halloween and mission: