Story By Lyndsey Schley
Business, government, non-profit and faith leaders came together to discuss ways they could work as a group on local social issues at the GoodCities City Convene conference Oct. 18 and 19 at St. George family Center in Akron, OH.
About 110 attendees came to collaborate in the event hosted by the Love Akron Network. The event offered attendees opportunities to learn from speakers who run successful community programs and to network and collaborate with other community members.
Akron City Council President Marilyn Keith said she attended because she sees the value in government working with the faith community. She said while she has a leadership role, she cannot solve problems alone.
“I think the impact of us working together is mind-blowing, but having said that, I think sometimes we have the pulse on the whole city, where sometimes a minister might just have his little community,” Keith said. “If we want to make this city better, we have to look at the whole of it. The collaborative effort, I think, is the key to success in changing our city.”
Pastor Jimmie Rodgers
Pastor Jimmie Rodgers of the Good Hope Ministry Baptists Church said he was excited to gain knowledge and reach out to colleagues at the event.
“I believe the body of Christ ought to come together,” he said. “We’re on the same team and oftentimes you feel a lot of competition trying to exceed and succeed, but I believe the body of Christ needs to work together.”
The GoodCities Movement
The concept behind the GoodCities movement is that instead of traveling for mission work, cities can make substantial changes in their own cities. President Glenn Barth said they see a good city as a place that provides elder care, education, safety, financial stability and social services.
GoodCities started in 1998 as City Reach International. GoodCities President Glenn Barth took leadership in 2007.
Their City Convene conferences began by bringing people together from across the country. More recently GoodCities has focused on regional conferences such as this one.
“Our City Convene meetings are kind of a front door where people can learn best practices,” Barth said. “You come to a City Convene and we bring in the experts to you.”
They also follow up by coaching with city leaders, so they can continue to take action on issues and develop the best practices they discussed at the conference. Barth shared it’s important to continue to work on the topics discussed past the conference to create change.
“You all here in this room are the experts in the room. We can share with you our best knowledge but unless there’s an understanding and ownership that happens with that knowledge where you say ‘I identify with that and I want to take that with me,’ and then an application where I not only take it with me but I do something about it, we have not done much with this conference.”
Shifting the focus from the Church to the Community
Speaker Reggie McNeal from the Leadership Network spoke to attendees about the importance of shifting from a church-centric view of the world to a kingdom-centric view. He suggested parishioners can do this by shifting some of their focus from what happens within the walls of the church to improving the community outside those walls.
“Helping people get a life is the way to share the gospel, because it’s not the gospel of the gospel, it’s the gospel of the Kingdom,” McNeal said.
He said churches who are too inwardly focused can disconnect themselves from their community and hurt their opportunities with the world around them.
“That somehow sends out the wrong message, that a church is just mostly there for their own benefit. So that diminishes the impact of the church even further,” McNeal said. “It has an accelerating impact on their irrelevancy.”
He said churches can reach out to community leaders like mayors, school administrators and police chiefs to talk about their biggest difficulties.
“There’s no substitute for engaging the community for discovering the community,” McNeal said.
One organization that came out of these efforts that McNeal shared is Cy-Hope in the Cy-Fair area of Texas. The organization provides afterschool programs, counseling, food assistance and music and sports programs for children. Currently, the group has two centers near Title I schools in their area, but the organization hopes to eventually expand so they have a location near every Title I school in their area.
Don’t miss Part two of this story.