Listening Works

Faith and Community Development Institute – AL, LA, MS

In October, when New Orleans is beginning to cool down a little, 10 people from the House of Hope Fellowship began doing prayer walks and listening to the community.  Rev. Gerald Burton, Pastor of House of Hope Fellowship, said, “We are a 1 year old church plant in the 9th Ward community. It wasn’t my original intention to be in this community, but God shifted our focus here. With most church plants you do demographic surveys and then start moving. I didn’t take that route. We just moved into the community and trusted what God is going to do.  We didn’t have a great feel or deep roots into the community, so I thought it would be very important to listen to the people in the community.”

For several hours, the members walked in the community.  Before they left the church, they defined their boundaries and developed into teams of two.  In the listening sessions, they ask the following questions. Please tell us about yourself and your connection to this community? How long have you been in this community? Who are the leaders in the community? What would you want to see in this community? What would you like to see going on in this community?

Upon returning the group shared what they learned. They discovered:

  • Pre Katrina, the community was predominately African American. Now the community has become a little more diverse to include Hispanics and white people.
  • The middle school and high school students are bused out of the community.
  • They envision programs to reduce crime, new and rehabilitated housing, and activities for the youth.

“When we finished that day, we were excited about what had just happened”, says Rev Burton. He goes on to say, “But the real impact on walking the community didn’t until we walked again a few weeks later.  “As they walked this time, Calvin Jackson and Audrey Brown met them and shared with them their appreciation for listening to the community.  They also shared that they owned the neighborhood grocery store and would like to partner to mentor youth.

In December, they House of Hope Fellowship, We Got It Grocery Store, and the New Orleans Recreation Department developed a youth mentoring program. On a weekly basis, youth are contacted and engaged by adults in the community.

Faith and Community Development Institute

Woodmere Community Organizes a Summer Youth Program

In March 2009, Mission Possible Community Development Corporation, in conjunction with members of Temple of Praise Ministries, developed a ministry called the Battle Ground Believers (BGBers). The purpose of the BGBers was to walk the Woodmere community, listen to the neighbors, build relationships, identify things we can do together to transform the community, and pray with people if the opportunity opened.

Elder Nelson Dexter, pastor of Temple of Praise Ministries said:

“Woodmere is the biggest neighborhood in the State of Louisiana. It’s located on the Westbank of New Orleans, in Jefferson Parish. When you drive into the community from Lapalco Blvd, you see commercial areas. Then for several square blocks, you see apartments and some homes that have been run down. You can also get any type of drug and gun you need. Then as you keep driving you have this healthy working class community. So our goal in walking the community wasn’t to evangelize to them. Or to even try and condemn them. We just wanted to listen and learn.”

Every Saturday evening for about two hours, the BGB walked the community. After six weeks, they held their first meeting to discuss how they could improve their community. Two vision elements developed out of that meeting: (1) Weed out the drugs in our community. (2) Partner with Woodmere Playground to develop more youth programs.

With the summer approaching, the community members held several more meetings and preformed research actions with Jefferson Parish Recreation Department and Councilman Byron Lee. Out of the meetings, we discovered we could hold a summer enrichment camp at Woodmere Playground, because the facility was basically going to be unused during the day.

Community member Lavar Smith said, “Once we found out that we could host a summer enrichment camp at Woodmere Playground for youth ages 6 to 18, we were excited. But what we didn’t realize was that we were going to have to organize more as a community and staff it. The Jefferson Parish Recreation Department and Council district were without monetary resources.”

Because it was late in the fiscal year, both the Jefferson Parish Recreation Department and the Councilman didn’t have funding. They used to be able to fund a summer program through dollars from the local casino, but the council changed the laws to bring that money into the overall budget.

The Woodmere Community members stepped up again. Four teachers and three volunteers from the community offered their services and managed the program fro 5 weeks. The program served 32 youth and enriched their math, reading, and writing skills. They went on field trips and listened to guest speakers.

Pastor Dexter said, “Watching all of this unfold for Woodmere in a matter of weeks was unbelievable. It’s a testament to what people can do when they organize and release their gifts. I can’t wait until the Night Out Against Crime in August. That may push us to working on our next vision statement.

Community Walking Exercise

This tool is an outline of a community walking exercise intended for aiding in community discovery.

This tool is utilized within a coaching/consulting relationship. It is not intended to be a “stand alone” resource for analyzing data.

View PDF

Urban Survey Information

This tool is a list of things to look for when you walk around your neighborhoods when you are ‘Building Readiness’ and doing ‘Community Visioning.’

View PDF

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