Neighborhood Transformation: How long does it take?

Jay Van Groningen – Executive Director

When I meet with business leaders it is almost guaranteed that I will get a question early in the conversation that goes something like: “How do you measure success”? OR “How do you know you are being successful”?, OR “Define transformation – what does it look like”?

These are really great question. I used to talk about the Seven Dimensions of transformation (see below) and almost immediately I can tell I am losing their interest. (I really hate that – I get anxious when I feel like I am losing them – They don’t have time for “loosey-goosey”, “soft” measurements.) Anything that requires explanation is not stated clearly enough as an indicator of progress. You attain what you measure and if it isn’t clear, the results will be highly suspect.

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What is Community Development? A Fishing Analogy…

(Originally published in the CFA Summer 2011 Newsletter)

Evidence of a community being transformed:

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Long Lasting Transformation

Our relationship with Carlos, Mario and Charlie has deepened since they started coming by our office after school. At first they stopped to say hello on their way home. Then they would stay to help with projects we had going on. Yesterday they came to get help with job applications. As we help one another we see that the relationships they have built with Mika staff and volunteers are not just beneficial in the short term, but have long-lasting impact as well.

Charlie is starting his senior year of high school this week and as he looks ahead to college applications and long lasting decisions, he recognizes that key role his mentor and other volunteers play in his life. “I see that these relationships are not only beneficial to me now, but will continue to impact my life later as well.”

Mentors and volunteers are developing skills in kids like Charlie and Carlos and Mario in areas of finances, healthy relationship, leadership development and service. These are values and practices that create long lasting transformation in our community. Carlos, Mario and Charlie say that as others have poured into them, they have come to understand the importance of helping others. They recently told their mentors that the best part of their summer was the opportunity they had to serve and develop friendships with some of our homeless neighbors. Its a privileged to watch these young men transform before our eyes.

View MIKA’s blog here.


A newer concept within Home Missions is the idea of clusters. Clusters are groups of people or churches that are working together in a geographic area to start new ministries and churches.

Characteristics of a cluster include:

Kingdom Focus
Shared Ownership
Relational Vitality
Cluster Leader
Shared Vision and Values
Peer Development
Strategic Dreaming
Leadership Development

The Northern Lighthouse has become a developing cluster.

Approximately two years ago we began working out the cluster concept, which resulted in the planting of a church Waverly (a bedroom community to the east of Lincoln). David and Joey Best willingly came to serve at the NL, and David began working in a part-time position to start up the church. One of the greatest benefits is that David, being young and new to church planting, is able to work with a team of pastors for support and encouragement as the Oasis church takes roots.

Recently, John and Brooke Knoester have come to join our cluster. John is an ordained minister in the CRC and left his church in NW Iowa to do a one to two year residency with us. He is here to learn about church planting and ministry in our specific context as well as discern his call to ministry for  the future (John recently took a call to Mt. Vernon CRC in WA). John is raising all of his support through personal contacts as well as through grants from Home Missions.

Currently, I am working with a young man, Ryan Dudney, from Lincoln who has a heart for ministry and many great gifts for ministry including preaching and teaching.

Pastor Sam is feeling led to ministry in Nebraska City, a small town located about an hour from both Lincoln and Omaha. At first it was just a word spoken, and Sam being faithful to follow that call. Today, God seems to be opening doors there, as a small community is forming on Saturday nights for worship.

Other functions of our cluster are that we meet together with eight ministry leaders monthly for development of the 5 C’s: Our relationship with Christ, defining our Calling, relational development in our Community, ongoing development of our Character, and refining our Competencies. We also will be starting a Leadership Development component as well to train up local leaders of the NL and other churches in our area.

As you can see there are many exciting new opportunities as we work with the idea of clusters here at the N.L.

Developing Leaders For Community Transformation

This document gives some advice on what to look for in a community leader and partner.

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