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Everyone’s got that friend who says, “We’re gonna change the world,” but no matter how often they say it, they’re still working the same job, they haven’t increased their circle of friends, and the only thing they impact is the TV remote.

It’s the friend who has dreams of starting a non-profit that will effectively end homeless and poverty in the city.  They say they’re going to destroy boundaries between different people groups through their music.  Through their new environmental ideas, they will reverse global warming.

But no matter what they try, and no matter how motivated they are, they just can’t seem to get anything off the ground.

coffee windowMy contention is that people like this are not stupid or lazy.  In fact, in order to come up with ideas that change the city, you have to be intelligent, and if they have tried a lot of different things during their life, then they must be ambitious.

People like this are idealistic, which is actually a good thing in a lot of ways.  They’re optimistic and romantic, and they bring excitement to those around them.

But they have simply never learned one thing – how to be specific.  They have a very good, yet very general vision, which includes general goals and general means to obtain their goals.

But in order to change the city, you have got to be specific.

Be specific in prayer

I’ll start with prayer because it is the most important thing.

When we go to God in prayer, don’t say, “God help us to change the city, and help the hurting people.”

Instead, say, “God, there is a very serious problem with mental health here in our city.  Give us wisdom and knowledge in how to address this problem.  Help us come up with solutions that are practical and effective.  And let those who suffer from mental health come to a place where they can function with joy and clarity of mind so that they can glorify You.”

I'll start with #prayer because it is the most important thing. Click To Tweet

When you do this, you give yourself more clarity and a basis from which you can start acting.

Be specific in goals-setting

I’m sure many of you have heard of setting SMART goals.  It’s a common acronym in the business world.  It stands for:

  • S – Specific (not “Help the poor”, rather “Provide a program which helps the lowest income class obtain sustainable jobs”)
  • M – Measurable (not “Help the needy”, rather “Build a homeless shelter which can house 500 people”)
  • A – Attainable (not “Get everyone out of poverty in my city”, rather “Decrease homelessness in my city for families with one or more children by 4%”)
  • R – Relevant (not “Give out 500 tickets to Disneyworld to homeless families”, rather “Give out 500 meal tickets to homeless families with a system in place for each family to earn more”)
  • T – Time-specific (not “Find a volunteer nurse to treat minor injuries”, rather “Find a volunteer nurse to treat minor injuries within 6 months after opening the homeless shelter”)

When you set SMART goals, you set yourself up to achieve those goals.  If your goals are lofty and non-specific, you’ll never even know if you’ve really made progress, and that’s how you get on the fast-track to quitting.

Be specific in processes

computer workingSo you’ve set a SMART goal to put up a public, outdoor art gallery which is purposed to raise awareness for human trafficking.

But if you don’t know what processes you’ll put in place to obtain it, then you never will.  It will always be just a goal, and if it’s a SMART goal with a time-table, then it will be a failed goal when the time runs out.

So for the art gallery example, you’ll have to ask yourself the following kinds of questions, and for every unanswered question, you must recognize that it raises the probability of failing at the goal:

  1. What geographical space will you use for the gallery?  How will you pay to use the space?  Lease?  Buy?
  2. What permissions will you need from the city, and what regulations will they have?  What will a license cost?
  3. Who will be the artists whose work will be displayed?  Will they be paid?
  4. If you have to build any structures for mounting, how will you make it weather-proof?
  5. Who will build those structures?  How much will it cost?
  6. How will you raise visibility?  How will you market?  What kind of budget do you have for marketing?

Be specific in obtaining resources

If you notice, every one of the points above contain a financial element.  I hate to say it, but without money, all your attempts to change the city will likely fail.

But you can’t just say, “Oh, we’ll raise funds.”

Who will be your target donors?  How much do you need?  How soon do you need it?  How are you going to approach the target donors?

Be specific in your plan to fund your goal – make a plan like this:

Who will be my target donors?
My target donors will be churches in the city, and local philanthropists.  I have friends at 8 different churches in town.  My other friend works for a non-profit which supports early education, and the president of that organization is well connected with other local, successful entrepreneurs.  I’ll start with my personal connections.

How much do I need?
I need $100,000.  It will go toward buying the 50′ x 50′ plot of land on Main Street from the city, the required licenses, leasing the art from the artists, hiring Construction, Inc. to build protective coverings over each site where each piece will stand, and cover the cost of my fundraising event (see the “How will I approach my target donors?” section below).

girl workingHow soon do I need finances?
I will launch the finished gallery in one year from today.  My fundraising campaign will need to be complete in 6 months from today.

How will I approach my target donors?
For the churches and local philanthropists, I will work through my personal connections and try to establish an audience with the governing boards of each organization.  At each organization, I will ask for names and contact information of people who might be interested in donating.  I will then approach those new contacts.

When I’ve exhausted those connections, I will put on a local food and dance fundraising event on Main Street, in which the businesses I’ve partnered with will give 20% of their profits toward my art gallery, and a cover will be charged for all entrants which will go toward my cause.

That food and dance event, if you haven’t noticed, will start the planning cycle over, as you’ll have to enact processes for this event, too.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

It takes a lot of #work to #change your #city. Click To Tweet


Yes, it takes a lot of work to change your city.  You have to be very specific.  But it’s not out of reach.  It just takes strategy, perseverance, and discipline.  Anyone can do it, the idealists and pessimists alike.  You just have to know how.

So don’t give up.  If the work you do will help the people in your community, then you are obeying Jesus’ command to love your neighbor.

And that’s worth it.


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