Organizing Communities to Transform the World

by New Church Starts

by Candace Lewis, Path 1 New Church Strategist

What if training in community organizing became part of what we currently offer church planters? I think planters could learn a lot as they explore the skill sets and structure of those who work to bring people together to change their communities. After all, where does the transformation of the world begin if not at the community level?

Two great books about creating intentional community include Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block and Building Powerful Community Organizations by Michael Jacoby Brown. Both books are written for professional and volunteer community organizers.

Brown states that every community organizer has two jobs, which are to develop leaders and to build the organization. He defines organizing as “getting something done that you cannot do by yourself by working together with others. An organizer builds community with a purpose. An organizer provides a means (an ongoing group) by which people solve their own problems.

Brown suggests when starting a community organization that it makes a difference if an organizer starts with what people care about and helps people get to know each other while mobilizing them to address the needs of their community. Block talks about “The Restorative Community” in chapter 4 where he contrasts the vision of a positive community with what currently exists in many communities, especially in our urban centers that are great places to start new churches. Here’s what he had to say:

  • “The existing community context is one that markets fear, assigns faults, and worships self interest. This context supports the belief that the future will be improved with new laws, more oversight, and stronger leadership.”

  • “The new context that restores community is one of possibility, generosity, and gifts, rather than one of fear, mistakes, and self-interest. Citizens become powerful when they choose to shift the context within which they act in the world.”

  • “Communities are human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness. The conversations that build relatedness most often occur through associational life, where citizens are unpaid and show up by choice, rather than in large systems where professionals are paid to show up by contractual agreement.”

Church planters start new churches with a similar passion to the community organizer. Planters believe in creating a space and place for people to gather weekly for worship, fellowship, discipleship, mission, and service makes a difference in their lives and in the larger community. I believe our new churches “incubate the seeds” of what could result in communities being restored. I think that if we trained planters to be intentional about the results that impact the larger community in addition to results that make a difference to the denomination we can experience more community transformation through our new church plants. Let’s get our church planters and community organizers in the same room to share ideas and energy and see what God does as we make this connection.

Do you have any stories about churches that have taken on organizing the community as a ministry? How has your church’s presence and involvement affected the way the people in that community live and interact? Share your stories right here.