32. Do you have keys for the city?

The European leadership gathering just took place in Riga, Latvia at the beginning of February 2013. One of the process times involved thinking together about the foundation stones in pioneering? What do we need to bear in mind as we pioneer? What are the ingredients to a good pioneering experience? We combined our wisdom around the room and I have pulled together the following 10 points as the result. I have expanded on each point to bring them to life.

  1. Know the city, love the city: the first thing you discover when you enter the city is that it’s really big and I’m really small! So before I do anything, I need to get to know the city, its people, its character, its strengths and weaknesses, its bright side and darker side, its potential and its destiny. I remember the first time of going into Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, in the early 80’s to start an urban ministry. I sat down with pastors and people with knowledge about the city to find out the history and what we getting ourselves into. Then we walked the city, prayed for the city, and began to love it. The more we walked and prayed we found ourselves drawn to some places more than others and these were where we settled and began to establish ministry.


  1. Discover the ‘word of the Lord’: this is easier said than done! God has put a focus of cities in our hearts in Europe and we need to know what that means for us personally and as teams and nations – especially if I am going to be a part of a pioneering team. The word of the Lord isn’t an instant thing – lets bow our heads and receive it right now! Sometimes it happens like that but more often it grows on us. The word of the Lord is what God is saying to us regarding our calling, our investment, our audience and our approach. For instance when I first set foot in the Edinburgh, God called us to disciple the youth of the city, mobilise young people in evangelism and specifically reach punks. That’s where we started but the word of the Lord expanded in our hearts the longer we lived there.


  1. Meet men & women of peace in the city: Luke 9 talks about finding the man of peace, someone who can open doors into the city, someone who is connected, someone who can be our friend and advocate. These people of peace are precious people and it’s important to guard these relationships. I have had the privilege of enjoying many men and women of peace over the years. The first in Edinburgh was a pastor who had been a friend of ywam for years who gave wisdom, opened up his church for teams and introduced us to other key people. Others included a property developer, a businessman, an architect, a spiritual leader in the nation and a leader of another organisation who was to be key in developing projects together for many years. Pray and look for those divine contacts that will help in opening up the city.
  2. Network and serve: It is always a temptation to jump into action and get involved in the ministry you feel God has called you to but a word of advice: ,wait. Networking with others and developing relationships are absolutely vital if we are going to establish a foundation of trust for the long haul. In our first city experience, we were hosting teams all the time so I continually got to know more and more pastors. We served the vision of the churches in the city with teams and allowed the enthusiasm of our ywamers to enthuse their youth. As we gained trust, they opened up their facilities for all kinds of events and training opportunities that were part of our own vision.
  3. Embrace the breadth of the city in all its categories: as we go into the city, God calls us as YWAM to have apostolic, and prophetic input. We are called to do new things in new ways. We are called to the all’s, as the congresses around the world declare. So part of our mapping includes the geographic view of 4k omega zones in the city, or districts that the city is split into. We are called to reach the unreached – are there people groups without a church in the city? That can include language groups, ethnic groups, people groups or tribes of one kind or another. What opportunities are there for mercy ministry, evangelism and training in the city? What about the various spheres of the city – education, government, family, arts & entertainment, business, church, media? Let’s be open to all kinds of teams joining us to reach every aspect of the city.
  4. Establish models of ministry and multiply them: Whatever ministry begins to be successful, it’s part of our DNA to multiply it and we do that by establishing a training programme for others to learn from us and start ministry somewhere else. For instance, we began short courses in discipleship for local churches modelled after the DTS but just 10-12 evenings in length. We created manuals and wrote guidelines and ran many CDC’s, (Christian discipleship courses), DTW’s (discipleship training weekends) and LTW’s (leadership training weekends) over the years. Another example from the past was when my wife started a preschool in the city and in order to multiply it, started a 3-month training course, and then an internship. Having established many ministries in the city, the leadership loved the idea of developing multi-faceted city ministry in other locations and so we started an urban missions school to multiply the model. So the challenge is this: whatever is bearing fruit, identify the principles and teach others.
  5. Develop a support base: Starting city ministries can be lonely, especially if you start with a very small team. Instead of pouring all your time and energy into a DTS to recruit people into your city team, establish a good relationship with training resource bases that can send teams, be advocates for you, pray for you and provide resources. Every pioneer team needs good backing and a community that has vision and passion to see you be successful. This takes work and communication but is so essential for the long term health and development of the city team. If you do decide on running a DTS, I would encourage you to run longer schools of 10/11 months with 6-12 students. The students can then engage in churches, be part of the other outreach ministries, and become a presence in the city. The school isn’t so intense and you can rent accommodation for the whole year. We found this model to be very productive. The students in this model become like staff and are more bonded into the city and find it easier to stay on staff after the school.
  6. Live out community: People are looking for authentic relationships and a team living in community can be very attractive when they live out those one another’s of scripture. Opening our doors for hospitality, inviting people for coffee and meals and allowing them to see how we live, is powerful. It’s so often here, in the midst of community life, that people sense Jesus in our midst. Our love for one another communicates a message without us having to say anything. As we live in real community together it can also provide an accountability for life and ministry. Every healthy community has outside accountability too with leaders and ministries speaking into their lives to help continue the growth and development and keep it from going stale. A major part of our DNA as YWAM is to be local, national and international. So as a community, we will maintain life when there is the right balance of these three focuses.
  7. Commitment to the city: Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will our ministries be! So we have to think about longer term involvement. Generally it is thought to take 5 years to pioneer a ministry and so this is where we start. Obviously we can use lots of short termers in projects and events but we need that core team of people who will really build the ministry, establish long term relationships and create the trust that opens the doors to the city. Commitment is built where there is ownership of the vision, delegation of authority and responsibility in particular ministries, strong relationships and a sense of fulfilment of God’s purposes.
  8. A multi-gifted team: A pioneer team requires a pioneer! A simple statement but easy to forget. A pioneer leader is an apostolic leader who sees the vision and has a passion to see it implemented. As the leader shares the vision, people are drawn to it and join to see the vision realised. As the team develops and ministry begins, other gifts are needed in addition. These include the pastoral gift – to come alongside to encourage, mentor and develop the staff; the prophetic or spiritual gift that stimulates spiritual growth and hearing from God in worship, prayer and ministry; the operational gift that helps to organise, schedule, and bring order to the day to day life of the team; and the evangelistic gift that takes every opportunity to share Jesus and inspires the rest of the team to be ready at all times to bring that word of life to someone.

So there we have it – 10 simple but profound elements to bear in mind as we are involved in city ministry. I am sure there are many more but these are some of the main points that leaders from across Europe shared.

In anticipation of multiplication


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