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Posts tagged ‘serving’

Invitation to a Journey

On April 11, BODY | Oak Cliff will host its 3rd Faithwalking 101 weekend retreat. The Faithwalking experience challenges Christians to wrestle with this basic question of our faith:  What does it mean to join God on His mission to reconcile the world to Himself and to restore individuals and communities to His intended design?

Many of us are aware of this calling, this invitation to the abundant life, but something keeps us from living into it. The 101 retreat is an opportunity to begin exploring what that something is. This is not a pep rally calling you to ‘try harder’ – most of us are already trying as hard as we possibly can. Instead, it’s the chance to view our spiritual lives from a completely different perspective and to consider the possibility that we will never be free to live in missional obedience until we give God’s Spirit access to the hidden and broken places in our hearts.

The retreat introduces participants to a mental model of discipleship composed of three core components: 1) radical obedience that leads to a missional life, 2) a reflective life of increasing intimacy with God that leads to greater stewardship in the places we live and work, and 3) authentic community mobilized around a shared vision. Each component is experienced throughout the weekend as the retreat follows a rhythm of presentation (the call to obedience), guided solitude (the reflective life), and a time of sharing in a small group (authentic community).

Let me be clear about one thing – this is not an invitation to a “retreat experience.” Most of us have had our fill of spiritual experience for the sake of spiritual experience, the kind that terminates on ourselves and leads nowhere. What we’re offering is the chance to begin a journey of faith that will lead you places you’ve never been able to go before. It will require a good deal of hard work and there will be many challenges along the way, but the path is a place free from shame and legalism – it is the path of the abundant life of Christ.

If this invitation stirs something up in you, please consider joining us the weekend of April 11 to consider these questions further. We have limited capacity, but hope to accommodate as many as possible on this retreat. To register your interest, fill out this simple form and someone will be in touch with more information (see http://bit.ly/FW101interest).

For more information:

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Lunch & Learn Recap

loveneighbor3

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

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:

I HEART my Neighborhood

So far in this series, we’ve been looking at the vision and possibilities of a neighboring movement.  I don’t know about you, but I get EXCITED when I think about people coming together and seeking the good of those in their own community.  Neighboring is in the spirit and DNA of Oak Cliff; just imagine what would happen if more people were intentional about the “art of neighboring.”

But before we get ahead our ourselves, it must be said: Neighboring is not easy.  Just the fact that we have to talk about neighboring means that personal and cultural values oppose such efforts.  Busyness, privacy, selfishness – these and other issues block the natural flow of neighboring.

Loving your neighbors and working toward real connection involves decision and energy.  Therefore, over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some “commitments” of neighboring.   To connect, celebrate, and create  is the goal.  Consider:

Connect ::  I will connect with my closest neighbors, developing a block map and moving toward relationship.

Celebrate ::  I will celebrate my neighborhood, joining or helping create gatherings in my community.

Create ::  I will seek God’s design for my neighborhood, praying for and creating common good projects for the benefit of all.

Neighboring may not be easy, but it is life-giving.  Count the cost and make a choice to neighbor.  You never know what blessings might be right next door!

For more resources on neighboring, see www.bodyoakcliff.net/neighboring