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5 Building Blocks for Community Transformation

Shalom, spirituality of presence, and more bedrock principles for the pursuit of transformation


  1. Understanding the Urban Context Over the past century, hundreds of millions of people have left rural poor communities and migrated to the world’s cities in search of a better life. Despite these hopes, many have encountered profound inequality and injustice instead of opportunity in cities. But just as people on the margins in Jesus’ day were uniquely open to God’s reign, the Spirit is stirring in urban marginalized communities today. Whether in public policy, education, or media, low-income or marginalized urban communities are often defined by their lack. But if our only perspective is lack, then we can miss the movement of God. Our neighborhoods tell the story of urbanization and injustice, but they also tell the story of how God is at work. How can we engage in these communities as places of resource and hope? Our Community Transformation Certificate helps you engage the margins of your city from a perspective of hope and empowerment.

  2. Spiritual Practices for Presence “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” - Luke 4:18 As we walk alongside the poor, God journeys with us. So, we strive to lean into God’s presence in meaningful ways. What spiritual practices can support a sustainable neighborhood presence? In the tradition of many Christian communities throughout history, Servant Partners has developed a Rule of Life to guide our journey. Following these four streams of spirituality in Luke 4, and by God’s grace and power, we Walk by the Spirit, Proclaim the Gospel to the Poor, Break the Chains of Oppression, and Live the Jubilee Sabbath. This encourages us to a common spirituality, a common finding of God in the midst of our collective call. In addition to these rhythms, we chose spiritual practices that prioritize relationships with people and our relationship with God. We pray in various ways, gather around the Word of God, and weave celebration and worship into the work of justice. Learn more at www.servantpartners.org/spiritualpractice.

  3. Adopt a Listening Posture Listening is at the heart of community transformation—listening to God, community, and self. Listening involves a posture of learning, empathy, and the willingness to be present in someone else’s space. The outcome of listening is the building of trust, mutual respect, and solidarity. Listening requires humility and the willingness to give up power. We listen because we recognize that community residents are in the best position to find solutions to the challenges faced by their community. Our Community Transformation Certificate teaches participants how to develop a Listening Project as a foundation for creating change alongside neighbors in marginalized communities.

  4. Imagining Shalom The Hebrew word Shalom describes peace, wholeness, and reconciliation between God, humans, and all of creation. It’s God’s dream for our world, in which all creation lives in the goodness of right relationships. Theologian Randy Woodley writes about what Shalom looks like: “Shalom is always tested on the margins of society and revealed by how the poor, oppressed, disempowered and needy are treated. A huge gap between the wealthy and the poor may be a good indicator of the lack of shalom. Where marginalization of the weak, the poor, the disempowered, the ‘cultural, racial or ethnic other’ is present, living out Shalom demands that someone challenge the oppressive system and lift up those who are being oppressed, because oppression is sin. Shalom is not for the many while a few suffer; nor is it for the few while many suffer. It must be available for everyone.” Shalom is the concept we need to understand God and God’s processes, why Christ died and resurrected to restore the world, and the Kingdom of God. Only by practicing Shalom can humanity restore a world fragmented by sin.

  5. Creating a Seed Project Those involved in community development can have an idea of community needs, not from conversation with residents, but from outside sources, data, or their own perceptions. They might even raise funds, coordinate volunteers, and form an entire project before community members even know about the idea, decide if they want it, or think it will help. Seed projects are different. These are done with local resources and community assets, like local space, neighbors, skills, materials, and more. They address the “groanings” of the community–a response to signs of broken Shalom. They involve the participation of neighbors within the target community. Projects are done “with” the community—not “for” the community.


The goal of our Community Transformation Certificate is to help you identify a small seed project that you can do with your neighbors, in order to strengthen an asset or address a need in your community. Learn more and apply at www.servantpartners.org/certificate.


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