I had a coaching call recently with a few people who have missional communities that are in the inner city. The “leaders” are predominantly white, and they were going into neighborhoods that are predominantly not white. (This isn’t to say, of course, that only minorities live in the inner city.) I hear questions about this pretty frequently, so here are some quick tips if you’re starting a missional community in an inner-city minority neighborhood.
Don’t send in a million white people.
Seriously. Just because you have a lot of people that are willing to be part of this missional community doesn’t mean they all should stream in together. In my experience, send FOUR at the most (plus a little extra room for kids). For a lot of reasons, minorities have a difficult time trusting middle-class, white people. Don’t put up barriers that you can avoid. Having a brigade of white people come in is interpreted with distrust, unease and comes across as arrogance (savior on the white horse).
Find the person of peace.
Who is the person in the community who lives there, looks like the community, whom the community trusts that can serve as the gatekeeper to the community? He or she is, at the very least, the co-leader of the community. The leader needs to look like the community in the same way that Lydia, in Acts 16, looked like the community as the first church in Europe was established.
Don’t come up with something new.
When you’re trying to find the person of peace, don’t try to come up with a new program or plan for the community. Chances are, there are already a few community groups focused on this neighborhood. Join up with them. Remember: You’re looking for ONE important relationship. That’s it. But also remember that finding the right person can take some time. In my experience, expect six to 12 months just to find that one right relationship.