The following practical excerpt comes from an article by Scott White entitled "Place Based Community and The Necessity of Listening" recently featured on the V3 blog. Read the full article at the V3 movement.
When it comes to knowing how to engage our communities redemptively, listening is the first antidote for treating our ignorance.
... Listening empowers others. When we listen, the very act tells others they matter and that their thoughts and experiences are valued. When people are involved in identifying problems and crafting solutions, they are much more likely to become engaged in implementing new initiatives. They themselves are more likely to become agents of change.
Questions to Get Us Started
So let’s say we took more time listening to our community. What would we listen for? Here are a few ideas.
- Felt needs / Perceived problems – What are the greatest concerns of those in the community? Don’t expect people to become part of the solution if you’re addressing an issue of small importance to them.
- Root causes – What are the logistical obstacles that make it difficult or impossible for people to get what they need physically, socially, and spiritually? What worldview mindsets will need to change before you can expect widespread, behavioral change? In what ways do people have a diminished self-perception that is paralyzing them?
- Relational dynamics – What factions of the community are in conflict? How will that impact your strategies for change? Know ahead of time how you will be perceived or whom you will be alienating when you choose to work with particular groups.
- Unforeseen obstacles – Allowing members of the community to help shape a plan of action can provide input that will expose your false assumptions and give you insight into unseen challenges.
- Strengths and resources – What skills and abilities can you discover in your community that God might utilize to bless the community? What dreams and ideas are already stirring in people’s hearts that can be encouraged?
- The story God is telling – No matter how broken you perceive your community to be, God is already there, and He is working. Where do you see His redemptive activity already at work, and where is He setting the stage for a fresh work of His Spirit?
Listening to your community could start with something as simple as taking an hour to walk the streets and make careful observations. Or you could ask around to find out whom folks consider a “local historian” and meet with that person to learn how the neighborhood has changed over the years, what challenges it’s facing, and what its strengths are. Remember that you are building a relationship. Whether you are moving “full speed ahead” with community service projects or paralyzed by overwhelming needs, listening can be a powerful next step.
To learn more about listening for transformation, consider enrolling in TAILWIND, a leadership development curriculum from ITEAMS.