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Urban Servant Leadership Un-Conference: Supporting everyday heroes

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From youth mentors to social workers, Indianapolis is home to many individuals working to improve urban communities. Many of these everyday heroes view serving Indiana’s most vulnerable residents as a divine calling. 

There is a place where Indy’s leaders can go to gain the resources, connections and encouragement needed to refuel and refocus on their mission. The Urban Servant Leadership Un-Conference hosted by UniteforChange.org and Christ Missionary Baptist Church aims to empower emerging leaders to work towards positive change. 

“There are people who have signed up to lead in urban communities who are worn out. They go into it knowing they are under resourced, underpaid, underfunded and underappreciated, yet the calling is so strong that they wake up and go back every single day. We need to support leaders serving in under-resourced communities, and that is what this conference is all about,” said Pastor John Girton of Christ Missionary Baptist Church. 

Pastor John E. Girton. (Recorder file photo)

Girton’s idea for the Urban Servant Leadership Un-Conference was sparked during his 30-Day Tent Campaign, during which he camped out on a street corner to engage with the community and listen to ideas regarding ways his church could be a part of positive change. During this time, he realized cultivating urban leaders was key to progress. 

“In America, one of the things we teach our young people is that to be successful, you do what you have to do for yourself. You go to school, get an education, get a job and get a promotion. We are not saying that it is wrong to do those things, but leadership is one of those things where people have been told the best characteristics to have is to be a taker. We are saying that to be a successful society, you need to be a society of givers,” said Girton. “We need servant leaders because they are the ones who ask what can I do to make the next person better, and we need them everywhere, not just in Washington, the statehouse or in churches. We need them all over the place.” 

At the conference, attendees were able to learn from presentations by local leaders including Calvin Roberson with the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, Ashley Gurvitz with the ROCK initiative and Matt Nowlin with The Polis Center. Numerous nonprofit institutions were in the building, making sure conference attendees had opportunities to get involved in the community. 

Angel Smith, a member of Christ Missionary Baptist Church who attended the conference, says she was encouraged to use her gifts outside of the four walls of the church. 

“They utilize the church by getting us out in the community. For me, it’s actually a joy because I can use my gifts. I work with the youth, and its something I always said I wanted to do, but this is my first year working with the youth in my church. Now, I would like to go out to work with youth outside of the church as well to support them and bring them in,” said Smith. 

Vanessa Bush, another conference attendee, says she learned about leading an effective meeting at the conference, which will help her in her role as a chairperson at church. 

Girton believes one of the biggest resources and support systems servant leaders have are each other, and he hopes conference attendees take the opportunity to network.

“There is somebody here with the answer to your question. When you come to a conference like this you think, ‘I didn’t realized there were other people doing what I’m doing and who want to help and work with me,’” said Girton. “I also want them to be educated and inspired by the wisdom in this place. There are so many people who can help you get your vision, mission and purpose right.” 

The next Urban Servant Leadership Un-Conference takes place Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Martin University and will focus on issues relating to youth. For more information visit UniteForChange.org. 

Attendees enjoy the the Urban Servant Leadership Un-Conference. (Photo/submitted)

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