It was yet another underwhelming experience and I wondered why I’d bothered. I was sitting at another one of those ‘Community Engagement workshops’.
These workshops are usually facilitated by the local council, health trust or third sector consultants, designed to hear from local residents and to also share plans for the future. They are often poorly attended – with a few good souls, a few disgruntled ones and a handful who feel obliged to come. A lack of diversity was evident once again. Vision and energy was also in short supply.
But the growing number of these consultations in towns and cities across the UK is evidence of something really significant. Our city leaders, public services and funders of regeneration projects are desperate for new ways of working together with their local communities.
Personally, I would rather have a Bat Signal beamed into the night sky saying, ‘visionary leaders step forward’, but I guess a community engagement workshop will have to do.
In every town and city of the UK right now, there are opportunities for leaders like you and me to help shape the future of where we live – to talk with power brokers, decision makers, law enforcers, healers, educators and builders. To be city shapers.
There is a need to rethink the way that local services are provided. Budget cuts are undoubtedly a driver, but there are other drivers – big health challenges, migration pressures and regeneration projects – all of which need local leadership. Churches can continue to do their ‘thing’, but having a vision beyond themselves is, in my opinion, a requirement. Does your church have a vision for your town, borough or city? Do you? Are you willing to invest in it? This is more than running a project or two. This is about building strong relationships across your area, and it’s something God seems to be enabling across the UK.
I was thinking about the way Jesus did his ‘community engagement’. He travelled to the people & moved around. (He didn’t just base himself in a single building). He engaged with people at all levels of society. He wasn’t wooed by big titles nor afraid to mix with the marginalised. He was interested in people as individuals, their heart, their families and struggles. He was a story teller and a great teacher. He earned himself a positive reputation and people wanted to hear him. He dodged the traps but still spoke truth to power. I’d like to see more of these types of leaders.
Thinking back to that community engagement workshop I mentioned at the beginning, it may have been underwhelming but God’s plan was for me to meet someone at that workshop. That person has since become a very important contact which has led to significant income and other opportunities. That encounter is also paving the way for greater serving and influencing opportunities in the coming year.
Whether you operate in the sphere of ‘city-shaping’ or not, remember that God can use any moment to introduce us to something, or someone who shapes our future and the future of others.