Jacozza is a city of about one million. It has an industrial economy and a large immigrant population.
While there are over 30 churches in the city evangelical Christians are still a small minority. Seven years ago 15-20 of the pastors began meeting monthly to pray, share information, and encourage each other. After two years of this, the pastors agreed that they needed to prayerfully consider practical action together to share the transforming Good News of Jesus with the wider community.
While they had their own ideas about possible priorities, the pastors felt they needed to talk with local leaders and get their input. A smaller representative team of pastors called on the local school leadership, law enforcement, justice system leaders, city government, and key business leaders. Unanimously the message they heard was “Our city’s greatest need is service to and guidance for our young people. Particularly with a high percentage of immigrant population, many parents are not aware of what they can or should do. Young people get in trouble and fail in school.” Local school leadership identified six elementary schools where pupils were having greatest difficulty, where teacher turnover and discouragement were high and morale was low.
After talking with leaders of these schools, the churches decided to initially focus on providing tutoring for the children – ordinary church members giving the extra help that many needed and couldn’t get in the classroom. In doing this, of course, they built relationships with the children, school leadership, and many parents. Tutoring in academic subjects led to life mentoring – mature church members becoming ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister’ to students. Eventually community orientation, nutrition, and English as a second language classes were organized for immigrant parents. Dozens of local businesses along with community agencies cooperated in “back to school” festivals each year with several thousand in attendance.
Many families were touched, spiritually, and the school leadership asked the churches to get involved in more schools.
From the beginning one pastor had functioned as a ‘servant leader’ – first for the prayer and fellowship meetings and then for the partnership of churches as they began to connect with city and school leadership. A ‘Steering Team’ of 5-6 pastors worked with the partnership facilitator helping keep the focus and dealing with the countless details involved. Eventually, several lay people joined the Steering Team – reinforcing work of the pastors.
Four years into the partnership’s life the pastor who was the ‘founding’ visionary and facilitator was called to a church in another state. For months the Steering Team tried to run the partnership as a committee. Lack of time and different demands on each pastor made that leadership model difficult. In less than eighteen months after the founding facilitator stepped out of his role, the partnership ceased to function.
- What one or two things could have been done to strengthen the partnership’s ability to endure – be able to continue to serve and witness together?
- What were the most valuable ‘assets’ had the partnership built up over its 4+ years of operation?
- What one or two important lessons do you learn from this partnership story?