What We Have Learned from Churches, Part 1

In the last two years we have learned many things about attracting North American churches to Neighborhood Transformation (NT) and facilitating implementation. This has allowed us to make a number of changes in our approach. This will be a two part series. The following is some of what we have learned:

Churches most interested in NT fall into three categories:
1) Churches which are large inter-denominational or Bible churches that have been trying to have impact by doing things for people and yet have seen no transformation. They are ready to try a new approach but need the opportunity to try things in small bites, gaining confidence as they see things work effectively.
2) Organic, neighborhood based churches that are small and multiplying and yet are tentative about NT because of the mistaken belief that it is an “all or nothing” blueprint approach.
3) Wholistic, neighborhood-focused missional churches that are leery of anything that looks like a program.

Recognizing our target churches has led us to underlying changes making it as easy as possible for churches to become involved in NT with the least amount of commitment. They can participate at the level they are willing to start. In addition, it is important to clearly communicate that NT is not a blueprint approach but something that the organic churches can work with in bite sized pieces.

Catalyzing Churches
• The best way to find interested churches is still by word of mouth. Then a five-hour Envisioning Seminar is done to introduce them to NT.
• In a city such as Phoenix where an intermediary organization exists, four-hour Saturday morning seminars are held once a quarter. Topics are selected based on churches’ interest. Currently we have over 14 such seminars such as:
o Neighborhood Organizing
o Identifying assets.
o Reaching neighborhoods through helping them to recognize their history and develop a plan to reach their goals.
• Lead churches to identify a champion who will attend a full NT Training of Trainers (TOT).
• Assist the champion in holding a 14 hour TOT to train local trainers/coaches

Training of the Champion/Master Trainer
It is critical that there be a Master Trainer in each church who can, in turn, train and coach local trainers.
Doing the full NT TOT has not generally been productive in a city unless you have multiple churches that send their champions to be trained.

Change summary:
• Set up NT TOTs, regionally located, where these champions from different cities of the region can be trained in 5 day, complete NT TOTs.
• If multiple, committed churches exist in one city, offer two, 14 hour weekend trainings either back to back or a month or two apart.

Training Local Trainers
Our initial schedule of six Saturday Trainings of Local Trainers over a 24 month period was too heavy a commitment for a newly involved church. There is a need to make it easier for churches recruit local trainers at the level people are willing to participate.

Change summary:
• Instead of six Saturday trainings, do one 12 hour, weekend training for local trainers, set up as a Thursday and Friday Night of 3 hours each and a 6 to 8 hour all day Saturday session. Further training is then not required. This weekend training introduces the NT approach, how to choose and enter a community with an introduction to Asset Mapping. This training allows participants to not only get started but will likely give them enough to do for the next 15 to 18 months.
• NT has developed 12 to 14 modules, of 4 to 6 hours duration each, on topics that are of interest to the local training team. The team chooses the appropriate topics at the appropriate time. These blocks are taught by the champion (the city or church Master Trainer).

Finding People in the Local Churches Who Will be Local Trainers
Church attenders fall into four levels:

• Group 1: People who only want to be ministered to but do little outside the church’s four walls.
• Group 2, doing level: People who are willing to do a one time event outside the church’s walls that requires little time or commitment, generally a group activity requiring no relationship building.
• Group 3, relationship level: People who are willing to make mid level time commitment and develop relationships with others outside the church’s walls.
• Group 4, ownership level: People who are willing to take the lead in serving outside their four walls and become owners of what is happening.

In our experience the people who rise as Local Trainers are primarily from Group 4 with a few from Group three.

Change summary:
• First realize that people fall into these four groups and will only be involved in the level they feel comfortable in. They need to be given opportunities that they can immediately participate in at their level.
• The church needs to put in place an approach that offers opportunities for its members to serve outside the church’ s walls in ways appropriate to each of the three levels. We have developed a four-lesson module that helps the church establish such an approach.

See more next time

Print Friendly, PDF & Email