Today I leave to speak at the Gather Global Conference in London and to meet with national catalysts for city transformation movements from around the world. Before I go, I thought it would be good to share one more presentation from our recent South Central GoodCities Leadership Gathering. Below is a guest blog and video from Rebecca Walls, the Executive Director of Unite, which serves Greater Dallas. The 9 minute video below was recorded in one of our break out sessions.
Whole Church. Whole Gospel. Whole City. That's a big scope! What role do events play in that?
To be honest, while convening key leaders is one of the main functions of Unite, I don’t generally like big events. Since my mind is constantly spinning with thoughts about on-going collaboration and impact, taking time out to plan a big event feels like a distraction. But I've learned that they can play a very strategic part in our work - especially when they have a few specific components.
We've done 3 big events in Unite’s history (www.unitethechurch.org):
- We launched Unite with a huge coordinated community service event called "Go & Be." On May 1-2, 2010, 50+ churches across Greater Dallas mobilized almost 20,000 volunteers who collected food, painted houses, planted gardens, and more.
- In January, 2013, around 600 diverse Christians joined together for the launch of our city-wide prayer initiative called "A Prayed 4 City" (www.ap4c.org). This marked the beginning of a monthly prayer effort of 80+ churches and organizations who have adopted one day per month to pray through a common guide focused on the real needs of Greater Dallas.
- Then in January, 2014, Movement Day Greater Dallas (www.movementdaygreaterdallas.com) convened nearly 1,400 diverse Christian leaders to hear a common vision and to develop specific, measurable goals related to transformation in several areas of great need.
What do those 3 very different events have in common? They were catalytic. Why? Here are 15 key ways these events benefit gospel movements:
- They bring the “whole Church” together - - all denominations, races, sizes, socio-economic levels, professions are a clear expression of Christian unity.
- They tell the “whole Church, whole Gospel, whole city” story.
- They create new levels of relationships
- They expose the masses to the real needs of the city and connect those needs to our Christian faith.
- They coordinate the work of the body of Christ.
- They build a collaborative spirit that can lead to collective impact.
- They create a shared vision for the city and give everyone a common language.
- They uncover additional resources that you might not have otherwise known about.
- They encourage diligent servants; they let them know that there are others who care…that they’re not the only ones.
- They spark relationships between diverse people who care about the same things leading to shared best practices, coordination, and/or collaboration.
- They can be used to equip people with best practices, training, or other resources.
- They can be used to develop shared measurements for impact by finding out what everyone's already doing, collecting stories, etc.
- They raise awareness of what you're doing and your organizations values.
- They make an almost incomprehensibly big vision and mission very tangible.
- And because of those 2 things, they can increase funding.
Each type of event can provide it's own unique benefit. For example, community service events provide low-level engagement opportunities that will hopefully lead to long-term, relational, empowering service. On the flip side, prayer events provide a way for intercessors to engage the city transformation work in a way that matches their passions while also providing the supernatural power for the transformation itself.
But the most important benefit of big events is that they can bring glory to God. With that comes great responsibility to represent His heart well, but if you're doing that, I encourage you not to be ashamed to make the most of every PR opportunity.
My prayer for every city is that the Church will become known for praying for, serving, and loving our neighbors and communities in their areas of greatest need: poverty, hunger, education, injustice, or whatever that might be for your city. I'm so grateful to be living in a time in history when He's bringing His Church together to do just that and am excited to be walking alongside you!