Transforming Neighbourhoods: Discipling Communities.

Last Saturday we had the 11th annual South Reading Churches Fun Day with an estimated 5000 community members in attendance. It was just fabulous watching people move from being spectators to participators and having a whale of a time! It had me reminiscing about the different communities where I have helped facilitate community building festivals; across South Africa, northern Ghana, Kaduna in Nigeria, Trench Town in Jamaica… to mention just a few.

In each of these communities there are local people plugging away using various programs as ways to mentor others. On Sunday night I caught up with Derrick Trout who leads the work in South Africa, he had had a roller coaster week. When you are working to see your community transformed there are times of incredible breakthrough and encouragement, and there are times when you wonder if it’s all worthwhile. Communities are transformed when paradigms shift and people make different life choices, lives are changed and the very systems and structures of the community are renewed: that’s no small feat!

Jesus called us to make disciples of all people teaching them to live the way he taught; this is what he was talking about – it’s not just about working to see individuals find freedom, it’s about seeing whole communities and societies transformed.

Jesus came declaring that there was a new king on the throne whose rule was now paramount; God himself was now king. This meant that there was a different way of doing life that was all about harmonising with the will of the new King. The implications were for individuals, families, politicians, leaders, and society as a whole. To prove the reality of this new Kingdom, Jesus embarked in a systematic demolition of the kingdom of darkness. Everywhere he went God’s rule overturned and reversed every form of death, darkness and destruction. And once his part of the mission was completed, he sent us out to continue the same.

In fellowship with local believers, every Fusion team in each community they operate asks ‘What does the will of the King look like here? What works of death and darkness are to be overturned here?’. The answers to these questions are then born out in a long haul journey punctuated by events and programs, seasons of fruitfulness and of dearth. There are moments of celebration and moments when, like Jesus, we cry out in exasperation ‘How long must I bear with you?!’. But all the while individuals, families, politicians and leaders, and even society as a whole are being challenged and mentored in a different way of doing life. This is community transformation!

A Fusion Community building Festival is just one small microcosm of this transformation taking place…

So let us not grow weary in doing good, but keep going, because in due time we will see the harvest! This Saturday morning Fusion Y&C UK is running a training event to equip leaders and laity alike for the long haul journey of discipling communities and seeing our neighbourhoods transformed. Each of the 5 workshops is about declaring the rule of the King and demolishing the kingdom of darkness in a particular sphere. Why not join us if you can? Click here to find out more.

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A Global Classroom, for real

I want to share my journey through a 21 week training experiment. For 21 Wednesdays between now and the end of May next year, I will be facilitating a School of Mission with about 15 people taking part from 4 or 5 countries. I am writing at the end of day one – the 14th of November 2012.

The dream was to set up the game for a life changing, educational experience for anyone leading a process of community transformation in their neighbourhood and society… across the UK, Europe and Africa. Traditionally in the movement I am part of, people have had to take six to eighteen months out, to head to Australia for intensive residential training in youth and community work. As we approached 2012 in the UK and saw the potential of groups right across the country inspired and wanting to be equipped for effective, long term community mission, we saw that sending them all off to Aus wasn’t an option. We needed something more accessible, more flexible and dare I say more readily applicable in a range of different cultural and socio-economic settings.

So drawing on my own experience over the last few years, some research into the needs of our target group and calling on some of the senior trainers in our movement, we put together some content, re-constructed the training processes and called it School of Mission (day a week training).

As it happens we don’t have any of those new groups from across the UK participating, but today we had teams from South Africa, Preston as well as a couple of the team from Wheatley! The Albanians will be with us from next week and the Ghanaians are hoping to join us as well if they can make internet arrangements.

The day had its fair share of hurdles, the ineptitude of some Webex staff meant that we had to opt for another web conferencing solution at the last minute – that was a bit risky, but worked OK! (Except I wish you could minimise the program ‘boxes’ more easily!). Then about 10 minutes into the first session we were informed that the room we were in had been booked by another group! (In an effort to save money, we had decided not to book the room for a fee on the basis that if its free anyway we get to use it at no cost – nice idea if it’s not in use!!). SO after a bumpy start we were on our way for the day.

A concern for me is how we build a sense of community within and between the groups when we are connecting via internet rather than being in the same space together. The design of the training relies heavily on people learning through sharing with each other, so building enough safety for people to not only share but even interrogate the material or assert a difference in opinion to others is crucial. I think having people in groups helps – no one participating today was in a room on their own. Video links mean we can get some visual cues from each other, sadly the South Africans were only able to use audio which meant the connection between us and them was greatly reduced – they couldn’t see us and we couldn’t see them.

The responses from today’s training were very positive with people taking away substantial challenges from the subjects covered. Next week the complexity will almost double with the Albanians joining us and possibly the Ghanaians. It’s a tricky thing as a trainer, engaging with people on the screen as well as in the room you are in. Its a tricky thing as a participant engaging with a process with others when you can’t look many of them straight in the eye as you share.

Well the train has definitely left the station, but i wonder what next week will hold!