From the Executive Director: Together, We Can…

Jay Van Groningen – Executive Director – CFA

Jay Van Groningen

(Originally published in the CFA Summer 2011 Newsletter)

God is teaching me a lot about collaboration these days.

In my neighborhood, which covers less than one square mile, there are more than nine congregations that meet weekly for worship. Our congregation is a dwindling remnant group of long-term members supplemented with a commuter group. At a time when we are really resource challenged, we have honestly asked if we are needed in the neighborhood. There is a resounding yes – even from the other churches, if and as long as, we will collaborate with them in demonstrating God’s active reign in this community.

Sounds so easy, but collaboration only works when parties are willing to give their good gifts to others, and receive other’ good gifts as part of their ministry presence. So, in my crazy hour dreaming, I wonder what it would take to have nine congregations (from seven denominations and three language groups) sharing a common governance group. Could there be five or six campuses in the neighborhood with all of the congregations active in unique and wonderful community building? What if each campus focused on specialized activities and ministries working together with all of our neighbors on the things they care about most? Might God’s reign be more evident, might His people be more magnetic, might conditions in the neighborhood improve?

As I consider what collaboration may look like in the context of neighborhood churches, CFA is in a new collaborative relationship with  Leadership Foundations. We have a lot in common (values, organizational ethos, community development framework etc). While CFA focuses on neighborhood transformation, Leadership Foundations focus is on city transformation. By working together from our respective strengths we believe the “ends” (purposes) of our two organizations will be accomplished better together than alone. CFA’s work will be blessed when it is supported by a city wide intermediary organization with access to city level change capacities; city transformation really needs a neighborhood transformation strategy as part of its work. It costs something for true collaboration to happen. Each party has to give to the other. Each party also gets from the other, and in living/acting together we find new approaches, synergies, and magnified results. That is theory. In practice, we believe it to be true and invite you to test it with us in the next couple of years. The mutual giving has begun. The mutual learning is taking place. In a few early innovative locations, the signs of progress are at hand. CFA believes that in three years we will go from 340 neighborhoods to 600 being transformed, this collaboration giving much of the momentum.

Keeping my pride in check and trusting collaborative partners have been my challenges in these ventures. Will I trust others? Will I care about their outcomes in the same way I care about ours? Can I trust them to give in equal measure? Will there be a level playing field – really?

“By working together from our respective strengths we believe the “ends” (purposes) of our two organizations will be accomplished better together than alone.”

Pray for collaborative leaders. Pray for leadership humility that values the gifts of others and builds on them. God’s reign will be more evident in our communities when we work together.

About communitiesfirstassociation
Using Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) methods, CFA transforms a growing number of communities and engages Christians and Churches in their community.

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