As ordinary leaders like you and me seek to nurture new life in our communities, we quickly realize that renewal requires more than a change in systems and structures. It requires a change in our way of thinking. We are called upon to shift from a mindset of scarcity to a mindset of abundance, from a mindset of decline to a mindset of renewal. This mindset matters more than any method and it precedes any manifestation that we wish to see.
A Manifesto for Ordinary Leaders in Small Towns and Rural Regions
Here are 15 affirmations pulled together into a manifesto that guide us toward a mindset of abundance and renewal.
What we need is here–the resources and relationships we need are close to us, though they may be hidden. Think local first.
We are living a new story–the old story of rural as a space of death and decline, ignorance and prejudice, does not tell the whole story. We are “the rest of the story.”
We practice prophetic imagination–we honor the past while building upon it with imagination. Our small towns are full of folks dreaming and scheming with God toward new ideas and innovations.
Activists and entrepreneurs shall kiss–the division between justice-oriented activists and economically-oriented entrepreneurs is a false choice. Rural renewal requires folks working on both just public policy and thriving local economies.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for–ordinary leaders don’t wait for big business or big government to save us. We practice radical ownership and get to work being the change we wish to see.
Rural folks are agents of peace and justice–the stereotypes of rural folks as backwards and backwoods communities resistant to social justice ignore history and our testimony. We need social change and we organize to bring it out.
The kingdom of God is within us–In the spirit of Jesus’ teachings, we believe God’s presence and activity are witnessed here and now. We are always looking for how God’s kin-dom is at work within, between, and among us in our homes, neighborhoods, and regions.
Renewed leaders renew communities–the inner life of an ordinary leaders is their most precious gift and most powerful tool. We do hard work and it’s a “long obedience”; we prioritize time & space for personal and spiritual renewal lest our work for community renewal become counterproductive.
Renewal is every step–renewal has big moments but often it’s a million small steps taken in a spirit of hope and faithfulness. We are present to our place and people and don’t underestimate doing “small things with great love.”
Small is beautiful and powerful–ordinary leaders aren’t ashamed about the “small” in small town. We know that small has strategic advantages; our communities are nimble, intimate, innovative, and leavening.
We are not defined by decline— ordinary leaders are honest about struggles in their region but they don’t identify with them. We look for emergence, surprise, and resurrection as we cultivate our gifts, assets, and community capital.
“They” are neighbors not enemies–we challenge trends of racial resentment and scapegoating by insisting that diversity is strength, hospitality is virtue, and neighborliness is an ever-widening ethic. Y’all means ALL.
There is more than enough for everyone–we practice and demonstrate a spirit of shared abundance by open-handed community living, sustaining a flow of releasing, receiving, and distributive justice that Jesus instructed and enacted.
We are not missing out–we avoid the temptation to believe that rural life is irrelevant and ineffectual. We are not in the middle of nowhere but instead the middle of the now-here of God’s work & play in the world.
Abundant life is possible here and now–Jesus came to bring abundant life and showed us that abundance is possible for all people and all places. It’s our co-creative venture with God to discover, uncover, and recover the hidden abundance within our place and among our people.