By Katie Delp I knew during college that I wanted to pursue a life committed to service, justice, and community development. After graduating from Texas Tech with a degree in business degree, I had decided to spend a year working and living in Atlanta with Mission Year.
Even though that service program was only a year, I always knew I wanted to be in this for the long haul. Fifteen years later, I am still working and living in Atlanta, trying to pursue a life committed to service, justice, and community development.
At FCS, I often hear from young adults with similar passions and eagerness that I had during college. As I reflect on the ways I joined in this life, I know there were a few things that have supported and sustained me throughout the years.
Move in with a community.
You’ll have insider knowledge into the assets and challenges of a community when you live there. However, moving into the city alone (or even with a few friends) can be challenging to sustain. Find a program or a group of people already living in the neighborhood to join in with for support and greater impact.
Participate in church.
Connecting to a faith community helps keep you rooted and can offer support and inspiration as you live out your values. There is no perfect church for all who move into the neighborhood, but it can be a valuable place to develop relationships and nurture your spirituality.
Develop your skills.
A desire to participate in developing stronger communities is a job requirement. And the work is multi-faceted, requiring skills from many different people. Find out where you are gifted and develop those skills with the neighborhood in mind.
I used a business degree to focus on nonprofit management. I have also seen neighbors offer skills of photography, legal advice, or youth mentorship to the neighborhood. Many of these folks brought their skills to the community outside of their day jobs.
Learn local culture.
As cities continue to grow in diversity, many involved in community development encounter cultures different from their own. Learn from others with backgrounds similar to those represented in your community to help you understand your context in new ways. Some starter ideas include reading different authors and bloggers, watching films, and attending cultural events.
Take it slow.
Community development is long-term work and does not happen overnight. There are benefits to listening first and waiting a year or more before jumping into action or taking on leadership responsibilities. You will earn the respect of neighbors and have a clarified lens through which to make decisions about where to invest your time and energy.
I love the excitement and fresh passion of young adults eager to participate in neighborhood change. In fact, we’d love to meet you and talk more about community transformation at our upcoming Open House.