Building Common Cause Communities - Food For Thought With Spencer Burke


In our last installment of Food For Thought, Spencer speaks on his experience helping faith leaders build common cause communities. This example centers on the work that he's done to help build a safe space for homeless teens to get care for their pets. By bringing together people, regardless of faith, they created a true church community and were able to do good and love thy neighbors. 



I would say we want to be careful to not turn churches into simple rental space. Right. We can end up thinking about, oh, well, let's go ahead and have our traditional aid groups. And I'm not saying take those away or let's open up a preschool or let's do a co-working space where if we just do those things, then the minister and the church and the congregation really become landlords, not people who are speaking into the vision of their community. And I hope the church, whatever assets we have, are seen as wonderful investments into our local communities and beyond. So let me give you three quick examples of things that I would consider common cause communities. All right. The first was a group that was working with homeless teens. And basically they had to narrow it down to say, okay, who is it that we're trying to reach? Then what they did is they did the observation part, so they talked to the homeless. She said, what is what's the need that you have? And now if you think just for a moment, what do you think the number one need in this particular case study homeless teens would say they needed? You know, they might think socks, they might think hygiene sandwich, all of that. Right. They said veterinarian services. But doesn't that make sense? Who is the one who loves them unconditionally? Who hugs them in the middle of the night, or if it's raining, keeps them warm or barks if there's danger coming? You know, many of these teens feel as if they've been left alone and isolated from unconditional love.

So their pet. Is that so great. Let's do the idea of veterinarian services. So they put up signs, said 9 a.m., Park Free Veterinarian services for any homeless teens. Then they go and they show up. Right? They have their vet there, they have the tables, they have a couple of banners, whatever. Guess how many teens showed up? Zero, not one. And you go like, wait a minute. So again, you go between the idea of observation, asking and then prototyping. Well, it didn't work. So they had to go back. And with this prototype, they said, Wait a minute, why? And they go, Hey, here's the problem. The police can read the same signs that you put up and you just did their work for them. They'd show up at 9 a.m. and rally or pull us all together and ship us back home. That's too risky. You've got to minimize risk for everyone involved, including those people that you're serving. So they said, What could we do? Said, You know what? If you would end up and do like our cell phone, your cell phone with each of the leaders, and in 15 minutes, if you could meet us at a corner or a place or location, that's worth the risk, we'll show up. So then what they did is they went ahead and showed up at the time that they had agreed upon in a 15 minute window.

And they had veterinarian services. And as long as the teams felt safe, they stayed and they were able to have wonderful conversations and as well as have sandwiches and socks, everything else. As soon as they felt unsafe, they broke up. Right now, once you go through the observation and the prototyping, then you've got to protect the works. Then you want a partner. And in this particular case study, this is crazy how fun this is. So what happened is there they put out the word if anybody wants to help and volunteer, you know, and and come out with us. So guess who in this case study was the one group that was so consistent? When I went down, I visited him this day. It was the San Diego Women's Roller Derby Association. Is that the best? But is it that like so perfect people that might have felt on the edge and out haven't fit in a church or haven't fit away? Here they find a way to love their neighbor. The church is provided the opportunity. The teens. I can't tell you the amazing conversations that they were having, you know, because they both had such relatable things. And in that moment, I looked and I thought in that pop up moment with a vet who may or may not be of any faith, you know, with the roller derby association who were deeply, deeply spiritual but didn't go to a church, and the teens who just wanted and needed to be loved came together in that moment.

And believe it or not, that became a moment of church. I saw that as a common cause community. Then out of that, they needed to solve the riddle of sustainability. So they had to figure out how do we actually find out the needs of the vets? Because some vets could actually be in trouble of losing a license if they're aiding and abetting somebody who's illegal or not illegal, somebody who's should be brought back to their home according to the law. Right. And so you had to kind of think about what their needs were in sustainability. Somebody wanted to donate a van that worked, actually. So it's a riddle of sustainability, not just money, but a riddle. And then once they got that done, we started to share it with people around the country. Again, it wasn't a competitive advantage, as you do in business, but it really was an opportunity to be able to share with others what they were doing. And then other people went through their own process of observing prototyping, but at least they had a model and idea of how you could consciously and soulfully move into your leadership. And that's what I encourage people in ministry today to do. And those in leadership, as well as those volunteering, don't just look for easy ways, look for creative and amazing ways where your soul and the souls of those that you will love will just blossom and go.


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