The Potential of 1-2-1 Relationships
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Towards the end of 2015, the Soul Action team spent time considering where they had seen and experienced the most positive change (thinking about how this might inform our work from 2016 onwards). The team acknowledged that they had seen most change where they had invested time in individuals. This ‘time’ included a combination of regularly gathering / training people (something Soul Action had become known for) AND one-to-one meetings (something Soul Action did more of in its early years). We recognised that both aspects were necessary in order for lasting change to happen.
As we reflected and spent time listening to God we sensed He was asking us to use what we had learnt and invest time specifically with the leadership of the Christian Non Profit Organisations that we have being working alongside for the past nine years; leaders who are seeking to bring justice in the contexts God has called them to.
At the close of 2015, Soul Action met with 30+ leaders to share what we felt God was saying in terms of our focus from 2016.
As part of this meeting Soul Action asked leaders to consider five things they had in common as leaders; four positive and one challenge. Their feedback was very interesting. The positive things that leaders felt they had in common were:
- ‘Just’ doing
- Called by God
- Build capacity
- Have courage
- Take initiative
- Growth minded
- Servant hearted
- Well established
- Agents of change
- Have good programs
- Love for God & people
- Strategic and focussed
..all very encouraging, but what struck us most was the challenges the leaders expressed:
- Spiritual attack
- ‘Feel’ like a failure
- Lack of encouragement
- Weight of responsibility
- Resources in terms of human capital & volunteers
- The extent of brokenness within the communities
It seemed that God was confirming what we thought. Our prayer for 2016 onwards is that as Soul Action gathers leaders and meets with leaders of NPO’s 1-to-1 that some of these challenges will be addressed and that we’ll continue to provide a safe space for them to gather and through regular 1-to-1 meetings they can use us as a sounding board in the many decisions they have to make.
When Soul Action’s education program first emerged in 2009 its focus was very much on teaching children. The past two years have seen huge amounts of time, resources and energy invested into working alongside teachers; a total of 45 members of staff from six different schools in one community. Through workshops and one-to-one mentoring teachers have developed the appropriate skills to teach phonics effectively.
In light of Soul Action’s renewed focus on working alongside leaders, Rachel Bowyer has been asking whether there is another role to play, that is necessary to progress further.
To date Soul Action has lead and managed the process. For the purpose of sustainability, it is now felt that the Heads of Department (middle management) need to take responsibility for the management and monitoring of the phonics program.
In order too enable this to happen we are planning four workshops for the Heads of Department (HOD’s) throughout the coming school year:
- Two workshops will focus on how to monitor the progress of the children and how to develop the most appropriate tools to do so effectively
- Two workshops will focus on how to support, mentor and motivate teaching staff
Alongside the workshops, HOD’s will receive one-to-one visits from Soul Action to help them apply the content of the workshop to their specific context.
The hope is that in working alongside middle management at the six schools – training and mentoring them to have oversight of the program – teachers will remain motivated, and feel adequately supported, to teach phonics and 1,500 children will continue to develop the appropriate skills.
Church in reverse
In recent months – after being instructed to do so by God – Soul Action has instigating 1-2-1 meetings with local business owners and / or community leaders as part of the process of exploring how we might begin to find and release some of the potential we believe Christian businesses, education institutions and churches have to address the inequality that remains in South Africa.
Speaking to the leader of one of Soul Action’s partner churches in the UK, he reflected back that it sounds a lot like ‘detached youth work’ – something Soul Action’s co-founders Phil and Rachel Bowyer where involved in when we lived and worked in Bucknall, Stoke-on-Trent in the 1990’s. Detached youth work involves building relationships with young people ‘where they are’ – typically on the streets – rather than expecting them to enter a church or youth club setting.
Rather than hanging around street corners, Soul Action happens to be dropping into local businesses, and – rather than youth – we’re striking up conversations with proprietors of beauty shops, bed shops, bookmakers, building and plumbing suppliers, decorators, electricians, fabric shops, lighting shops, local schools, paint and pet shops, security services, supermarkets, air-conditioners, computer technicians, engineers, florists, garages, launderettes, opticians, picture framers, printers, tailors, tilers and a water purifier.
So far Soul Action has visited over 125 locations and had significant conversations about church, faith, work, etc with about half of the people that have been met. Even after just 75 or so in-depth conversations, Soul Action is already beginning to imagine getting some of these men and women together in the same room. Equally, we’re open to the ‘throwaway’ comment made by a colleague, who pastors an Assemblies of God church about 120km north of Ballito:
“Don’t rule out the possibility that God has chosen you to Pastor the whole community and that this is church – rather than a single building.”
Or, as one local businesswoman put it,
“What you’re doing is like ‘church in reverse’ – rather than you expecting us to come to you, you’re coming to us.”
All we know – at this point – is that God said to meet local Pastors (and that the next steps would become clear), and then to meet local business owners / community leaders and, as we obey Him, the next steps would become clear.