I spent July 8-13 in Chicago for the Industrial Areas Foundation’s Community Organizer National Training. This was phase two of my grant work this summer looking at the intersections of emergence, evangelism, and, you guessed it: community organizing. The conference involved long hours in the fluorescent-lit conference rooms of the Doubletree Hotel, but brought together a working community to discuss the techniques and demands of community organizing.
I came away with a set of tools to examine and tweak: methods of conversation aimed to help people discuss what really matters for them, ways of looking at community consensus building that help people claim their voice. I think there is a great deal that the Church can learn from organizing. I’ve watched with awe the degree of investment the organizer trained leadership of St. John’s Lafayette Square brings to the tasks of parish life.
But I think we have further to go. In the future, I believe, the barriers between Church and culture need to become more permeable. Developing tools for listening to the needs of a community, creating and developing meaningful relationships, and engaging in community dialogue will be necessary for the Christians.
What do you think? How should Christians go about this? I am hoping to adapt some of these tools for use by Church people over the Fall, what do you think?