Archives For Community Connection

Below is an article by Patrick Cone, one of Storyline’s house church leaders (for the Victor Church), relaying some of the work they’ve done to get involved in the community and work for justice. I love the way working for justice attracts and connects us to those who are searching for God.


As stated on its website, Storyline Christian Community lives to discover its place in God’s story through dependence on God, mission, life change and genuine relationships.

One way we do this is through our justice initiatives. Each house church chooses an area in which they think they can be of use in the community around them.

The Victor house church has chosen the Ferguson Road Initiative as our area of influence. The Ferguson Road Initiative’s mission is to “transform White Rock Hills and Greater Casa View into a safe, beautiful, prosperous and proud community by inspiring hope and working together to achieve a shared vision.”

Just 10 years ago, east Dallas’ Ferguson Road corridor was the most crime-ridden area of the city. The initiative has brought vast improvements and we want to be a part of that movement. Two of our members live in this neighborhood and the area would be a very attractive place to plant a house church in the future.

Our partnership with the initiative began in April, 2010. So far, we have adopted St. Francis Park, a large park right in the middle of the community. We meet as a church group once a month and pick up trash and try to make a difference cosmetically. We believe part of being a child of God is taking care of his creation. So far, we’ve had 90% church participation. We also have a friend who has faithfully joined us at each “justice event” to date, yet has never attended a house church gathering. We are excited about our friend’s desire to join God in his mission here in Dallas and we rejoice that his heart is for justice.

However, park clean up is just the beginning. As the school year approaches, we hope to get involved in adopting a classroom at one of the schools in the neighborhood. We have also had members get excited about mentoring, an anti-graffiti initiative and one member was even selected by the Initiative’s board to serve as event coordinator for the community-wide fall festival. This position will involve recruiting other members of the community to volunteer at the event. What a wonderful way to meet new people.

Our church family prayed and considered this opportunity for several months and in the end, we believed God was leading us to the Ferguson Road Initiative. We are excited, FRI officials are excited and we believe we can work together with the community to inspire hope in this neighborhood.

Storyline hosted its annual City on a Hill retreat on May 21-22. The retreat is designed to equip people who are interested in participating in God’s mission to bless and restore the world.

The focus of Friday night is, “What is God’s mission?” The focus of Saturday is “What do missional people do?”

We answer Saturday’s question, “What do missional people do?”, with five key elements. Missional people engage in five rhythms as they participate in God’s mission. They:

  1. Listen to God
  2. Engage their neighborhoods
  3. Show hospitality
  4. Work for justice
  5. Tell the story

If Storyline has a “rule of life,” it’s these five elements. These rhythms are what we center our life around as community.

I got a facebook message last weekend from Heather Amend about how the conversation about “engaging our neighborhoods” had impacted her. By engaging our neighborhoods, we mean becoming embedded in the broader community of which we are part: 1) our street; 2) our workplaces; and 3) our “third places” (social hang-outs).

The assumption is that we can no longer expect  people who are searching for connection to God to come to us. Like Jesus (cf. Luke 5:27-32), we must go to them. Further, the church should spring up ‘out there’, amongst people in our community who are searching for God – rather than extracting them from their environments and into to our “safe” church contexts.

One learning point from the conversation was the suggestion to engage the community in community – that is, not as a loner, but in conjunction with other friends on mission.

Heather’s facebook message pertained to that – and got me excited about the way Storyliners are participating in mission. I’ve felt all the same dynamics she mentions; it’s nice to have someone articulate them so well. Heather’s comments demonstrate that the best learning happens when we’re actually doing something.

Hey guys,

I figured something out, a revelation if you will.

You know how you told us to go in pairs for non-church spaces? I thought of several more reasons why that’s good. That’s because I joined a meetup group and went to my apartment’s brunch by myself this morning. The meetup group worked because Elizabeth went with me. The apartment brunch was 10 shades of awkward.

– Whenever I go somewhere by myself, I am quite certain I project a “Help! I don’t know anyone” vibe.

– If I’m flying solo and I invite someone to a Storyline event or to hang out, it’s like, “Come hang out with ME.” It’s more pressure. Who wants to hang out one on one with someone they just met?

– When you invite someone to an event and you’re in a pair, it’s like, “Hang out with US.” Immediately it’s like being invited into a crowd, which is less weird than being invited to hang out one on one.

– The person you’re inviting already knows TWO people at the place you’re inviting them to.

– It shows them that you have friends and you’re not a loser.

– It kind of depends on who you’re approaching. When I went to interview the homeless at Solomon’s Porch, flying solo wasn’t a big deal at all. Those people are so much more approachable. But Uptown people?

Just some observations. Anyway, I firmly back you guys’ idea that you should go in pairs.

Kickin’ It

Charles Kiser —  August 31, 2008 — 4 Comments
Just thought I’d entertain you this week with a few pictures from our recent kickball event at Cole Park. We had several new friends join us — four of whom, in fact, have just moved to the United States from Spain and have taken jobs teaching Spanish in the Dallas Independent School District. Their English was impeccable and they were excellent kickball players. I think their skills at futbol (soccer) gave them an edge on us.

The Kiser boot. Observe the straight body lines, eye contact, and skill at kicking while holding drink in hand. Superb form. It was probably a foul.

Ryan Porche looking far into outer space after kicking the ball — because that is usually where his ball went. The man was usually at home plate before the ball even hit the ground.

Someone named Claudia decided to engage in waterwars with another someone named Charles. Charles had the last word in the group picture, however, unbeknownst to Claudia.

Raj is a good friend of ours in Dallas. I’ve described him to others before as a “person of peace” for us — someone who has shown us hospitality and opened doors for us into new relationships and organizations since we’ve been here. He’s very well connected in Dallas — so much so that he’s running for City Council next year. He’s excited about what we’re doing and has been a big supporter.

I’ve also described Raj as one of the most philanthropic / spiritual of non-religious people I know. Many of us religious people, in fact, would do well to take note of the way Raj lives his life. I think it is, in many ways, close to the heart of God.

Raj sent us some reflections about his experience at the Neighbors Lunch that I want to share with his permission. Thanks, Raj, for these profound and affirming thoughts.

As a relative outsider, well not really…Meeting Charles has been a great experience for me as I have a new friend, but more importantly a friend that comes from a very different viewpoint in my life then is traditional for me.

I have truly enjoyed meeting all of you this past week. Charles, Julie, and Ryan with the COOL last name… The lunch event on Saturday was a really neat experience. Meeting folks that are homeless and truly have a different perspective in life always teaches me something. Regardless of where, and or what path you have taken or have arrived from we are truly blessed. While I have struggled with my personal faith, I have always found that helping others in any capacity is a function of serving in God’s eyes, in God’s name, and in God’s true expectations of us as humans. To that end, meeting those less fortunate is more than writing a check. Its more then giving a hand-out, its sharing hope. In many ways, its what we all do in our day to day lives. Share hope, passion, compassion, and kindness with other humans. Doing that service for others, while not enabling them, only drives them to help themselves is my opinion.

As I travel back from CA on another business trip, complaining about this or that, I am reminded reading the Storyline blog … that I am blessed. Blessed to have friends, blessed to have an education, blessed to know right from wrong, and blessed to be able to do something about improving the quality of live for others. I am grateful that God has given me so many blessings and tools to help me with my life, but I find more valuable the tools he seems to give me to help others. To that end, I believe your lunch this past Saturday is a small but significant example of what your group and church truly brings to the table in God’s name. The ability to help others, show others, lead others, and encourage others who may have no vision or understanding of how to improve their quality of life.

So… I do believe that improving the quality of life for others is part of your mission. I am glad to have shared it with you, and I hope to help you all again in the near future. It has been my pleasure to learn from you all…

Non-Church Spaces

Charles Kiser —  June 16, 2008 — 12 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about connecting to people in our broader community for the sake of God’s mission.

In my reflections, one thing has hit home again and again: the importance of entering into and living within “non-church” spaces.

A common instinct for ministers and churches when seeking to connect to the community is to host some sort of community event and invite community people to it—a marriage seminar; a financial management class; a kids’ camp. Most of the time such events are hosted at church facilities. Sometimes they’re hosted at neutral locations in the community.

The location is less important than who is hosting the event—the church. The event becomes inherently “church space” because the church is hosting it.

What’s the problem with that? There’s no inherent problem with the church hosting events that connect to the community. But there is a potential problem given that more and more non-Christian people distrust, or are at least ambivalent toward, the institution of church such that they’d be more likely to participate in a marriage seminar or financial management class elsewhere.

All this resurfaces the importance of cultivating personal relationships with non-Christian people and building trust with them (so they can see we’re not wacko). And how do you go about doing that?

Enter into relationships with people in “non-church” spaces.

Non-church spaces are places where the church doesn’t set the agenda, plan the party or control the atmosphere. There’s no bible study. No prayer before the meal. No announcement about upcoming worship gatherings.

A significant reason Christianity has struggled in North America is because it has neglected to engage these kinds of non-church spaces. Churches have neglected non-church spaces for the same reason non-Christian people have avoided coming to church spaces: fear.

It’s a scary thing to venture off into territory where we have little control over things, where we’re different and might be the minority. So who should be required to take the initiative, churches or non-Christian people? It’s almost a rhetorical question.

If the church is to connect to its community it must first be part of that community. It must venture out into non-church spaces.

Here are a few non-church spaces in which the Storyline Community has either spent time intends to spend time (many of these are determined by our context and might be different somewhere else; some of these are based on our own passions):

  • Civic organization events
  • Community service organizations
  • Sports leagues (joining other people’s teams)
  • Concerts and plays
  • Fitness clubs
  • Workplaces
  • Apartment communities where we live
  • Restaurants, bars and coffee shops

Our major victories these days are simply 1) having the courage to enter such non-church spaces and 2) the relationships that emerge from them. The hope is that the shape the church takes will consist of and be informed by community relationships such that Storyline becomes a church that grows out of its surrounding culture.

We’re seeing this hope become reality in small ways already…more about that later.