09 Jun, 2023 Four characteristics of leaders who take unity from talk to action
Four characteristics of leaders who take unity from talk to action
This reflection is based on observation of individuals in 90 cities and towns facilitating city-wide booklet deliveries and prayer walks – year up on year. However, the four simple principles are transferable to all city-wide endeavours.
Our national networking gives is sight of a few things. We are privileged to be connected to amazing Christian leaders in every city and town we work with. It is a true privilege.
However, city wide unity efforts are not always easy – and occasionally a delivery is not completed. What are the dynamics that seem to define whether or not a delivery will be completed?
Here are some reflection points.
However, before starting we need to establish that the goal of a city-wide letterbox distribution and prayer walk is quite readily achievable.
Assessing the difficulty of the task
While we would probably all have imagined a city-wide and nation-wide volunteer delivery to be very difficult before the first time churches united in each place to achieve it – today the categorical reply in most places would that it is actually quite easy!
This endeavour has demonstrated to many not only how unity can be functional – while we consider the necessary boundaries for this, but also something of the scale of the ‘latent potential’ that might sit within our unity, were we to work out how to release it.
For the math, we’ve found that with about 20% (or less) of the churches involved – and just 10 volunteers each – a full map for a delivery/prayer walk in a a city or town of any size is covered.
- The volunteers then go out – and within 2 hours that city (of any size) is done!
Regarding back up plans if there is a problem – to note the potential ease of ‘fixing’ these – 10 volunteers per church isn’t many at all. That’s just one church small group, or some youth going for a walk/ The elders board has 6 people – with 6 wives – done!
- So a promotion to the congregation isn’t even needed if a church is only taking 10 areas!
However, were a church to want to ‘change the world’ (or cover some gaps) – there is a consistent pattern in which, if a church shares the vision while handing a signup form along the rows on a Sunday morning, 20% to 40% of a congregation will signup! For sure – they’ll be exceptions – but this is quite consistently the case.
- So a church of 50 gets 15 to 20 volunteers
- A church of 100 gets 20 to 40 volunteers
- A church of 200 gets 40 to 80 volunteers!
- (While sometimes a church of 60 gets 40 volunteers, and a church of 80 gets 50. Individual churches sometimes cover half a city like this, and individuals who go for regular walks for exercise can also cover 20 to 60 areas by themselves in a 1 to 2 month period!)
The above is to illustrate that while the task might sound big – it doesn’t actually need to be.
But it is for some! So, what dynamics make the difference? Here’s what I think I observe.
What we notice in the leaders and places that find it easy
A key leader or two see a vision that is worthy of their focus
It’s not a big vision. It’s not a difficult vision – if we work together. But it is a worthy vision. If a couple of people see it, the rest of the group will usually quickly agree because some genuinely unique outcomes are quickly achieved.
- The gospel ends up in most homes of our city
- A city wide prayer walk happens
- Maybe a united church prayer gathering happens before that
- Outreach equipping is catalysed via pulpits, small groups and youth groups
- Church people have new experiences – generating growth
- …and also testimonies – which add momentum to all outreach endeavours.
Does anything else get the gospel literally into most of our homes – on our TVs – and in our social media?
There is an existing attitude of collaboration
If a culture of collaboration exists, the question is, Is this both a sensible and simple vision? If it is, it can likely be integrated and achieved quite effortlessly.
The spirit of collaboration makes a big difference. I think of a city where the coordinator within the pastors’ group has changed regularly – but none seem to have ever found the city wide effort much of a challenge to organise. It is made easy by the clarity of their vision, and the collaborative attitudes of the various pastor’s hearts.
There is an attitude or perspective within the leader that sees the city as ‘their city’
It’s easiest to illustrate personally here. I have personally coordinated the Tauranga delivery each year this has happened – so as to be ‘hands on’ at the grassroots concurrent with the national coordination.
My attitude is genuinely that this is MY city (and I own most of South Taranaki too in my attitude and thinking. It’s MY community – though not in any early sense. It’s a spiritual vision or perspective). I therefore naturally welcome new pastors to my city – because they’re coming to help our Church (which is the Church of Tauranga – meaning all the congregations together, united in our God-given mission). I also engage in things well beyond my own church or work, to quietly take some responsibility for certain problems or things I see – where I feel I could make a difference, help or catalyse something.
Regarding the HOpe Project delivery – were I to discover an area hadn’t been covered in our city-wide delivery (like I did about a month ago), not even a seconds thought needed to know that I will do whatever is needed to see it completed.
I.e. I would not tolerate a ‘gap’ – and not only because I coordinate the thing nationally. I know this is the Christian message of hope, literally inside of homes where there are people that God loves, and we all need hope! This connects to my God-given mission as a follower of Jesus!
Actual gospel work doesn’t get easier than this. This small effort really can change a person’s life. So, how could we not deliver – where it’s so easy?
It is a spiritual perspective – and I see leaders in various places who have this view – and it catalyses something…
The above attitude generates faith – which releases the Spirit of innovation, who is the Holy Spirit!
There is a saying, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. With 90 cities and towns in view – the spirit of faith is at work in citywide ventures all over the nation. And when a problem comes, that faith releasing the Spirit of innovation!
Summarised differently: If the goal is worthy, and the attitude is that ‘this is my city’ – faith arises within us, in which case our God helps – with whom there will be a way through, no matter how big the problem might seem – who helps us find a needed solution!
It is a Divine work!
Three quick stories as examples
- A new coordinator in a medium size city had a very limited database from the prior coordinator. Being short of volunteers he wasn’t intimidated. He clearly had faith, and believed God could help the task be completed. He’d innovated by calling and then visiting some pastors he’d never met – building bridges – soon filling all the gaps, while also establishing a much stronger network for next year (and for other united effort that needs those wider connections!).
- A new coordinator in a part of Auckland did the same this year. Where pastors in churches right next to areas that were not yet covered didn’t answer their phones – she visited, correctly assuming that the fact that they didn’t answer their phones wasn’t personal (Howe could it be if they didn’t know her?!)/ Again and again pastors agreed to help – and she was able to visit a couple of churches briefly during their Sunday services also, to promote the delivery (so the pastor had literally nothing to do or think about). In each case she would have found 10 to 30 volunteers (because she would have put that signup form along the rows). Thos kinds of numbers are a huge difference in seeing a wider area covered!
- Again this year, in a city where the pastors’ group has opted as a group not to be involved for the past 3 years – for no reason that we’re aware of (and we defend their freedom to decline any connection with us), a single lady form a church there has coordinated. With help from just 3 churches (if I remember correctly) – but then also a various friends and ‘miracle connections’, the city has been covered. Again the point is, when a person sees the city as ‘THEIR’ city’ – in which to serve and represent God, they can look to God with faith – and God works!
These principles are transferable. I’m aware of various united ventures in various cities and towns nationally where the same would apply.
As a ‘diagnostic’, if something is difficult in the unity space is ‘not possible’ – the question is, which one or more of the factors might be missing?
So we are clear in our thinking – there are many visions people might propose for the churches in a city (or in our nation) that are neither simple, nor really very sensible for wide application once a wider appreciation of factors, and also alternative options, is in view.
- Point/question #1 must be sincerely asked! Is the vision really worthy of our united focus?
- The autonomy of every person and church then also needs respecting – without judgement. This is an important boundary, even though sometimes difficult.
In summary – a citywide delivery and prayer walk seems to be quite easy to achieve where four dynamics are in play
- The key contact believes the vision is worthy
- There is an existing spirit of collaboration amongst the churches
- The key contact sees the city as ‘their city’ (as contrasted with having a vision only for the growth of their own local church)
- The key contact is able to view challenges through the lens of faith, releasing the Spirit of innovation…
…because where there is faith, and a worthy vision, God will surely make a way!
(And if the delivery is difficult – the question is, which factor or factors are missing or weak?)
For other articles by Dave on the same topic of Church unity
2022 – A vocabulary we can agree on (This one is a particularly important FOUNDATION if coherent national discussions on unity are to one day take place)
2020 – It’s time to take responsibility to educate our own children and youth again (On united direction and strategy – for city change)
2020 – A need for new media platforms – not more voices (How do we address the increasingly left-leaning and also anti-faith bias of public media?)
2020 – A vision for national Church unity (What might REALISTICALLY be within our reach to achiEve – if we merely thought differently?)
2019 – ‘In One Spirit’ – The purpose of the book (Written at the time of the book launch and press release)
2019 – United we stand (A blog just prior to the release of the above book, ‘In One Spirit’)
DAVE MANN. Dave is a networker and creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing and also being valued in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and has coordinated various national nationwide multimedia Easter efforts purposed to open up conversations between church and non-church people about the Christian faith and its significance to our nation’s history and values. Dave is the Producer of the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated NZ history series created for educational purposes, and the author of various other books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and “The Elephant in the Room”. Married to Heather, they have four boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.