Organizing Like Apostles
BY BR. KEN HOMAN, S.J. | May 8, 2023
Figuring out how to work for justice can be a challenge. It’s easy when there are large frameworks and organizations already working on an issue I’m passionate about. I can plug in without exerting myself.
But what happens when those organizations aren’t already established? Or they’re not in your geographic area? Or were once strong but have started fading?
The disciples in the Acts of the Apostles juxtapose those in John’s Gospel. In the Gospel, Thomas is befuddled. He’s used to looking at someone in charge and asking, “So what next?” Except he’s about to be left in charge! Thomas and Philip have received tremendous gifts, but they’re afraid to use them. They instead want somebody else to show the way.In Acts, on the other hand, the disciples followed a great community organizing model. They identified a need in the community. They gathered to collaborate and establish a plan. They ensured the community was on board. They trained leaders and got to work in the community. Others began joining because the disciples’ work witnessed their faith.
When I was in college, I immediately jumped in and took over the sputtering human rights student group. But I didn’t do it well like those in Acts of the Apostles. I was active and passionate. But I failed to get consensus, train other leaders, or really even establish a plan. Moreover, I put myself in charge and didn’t collaborate with others. I would have done well to instead use the model in Acts.
While we often look to Scripture for spiritual insights, today’s reading from Acts gives incredible practical advice: have faith in God, have faith in each other, and organize your community.
- What leadership gifts have I been given? How should I nurture and develop them?
- What community is asking me to become a faith leader? How am I being called to listen to their needs?
Bro.Ken Homan, S.J., is a Jesuit brother currently studying and writing at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. In addition to his work as a student, Bro.Ken works in union organizing and environmental justice. In his spare time, he is a woodworker and master of puns.
When I’m asked to take on a position of leadership I always search for the best person for each job and then ask them what they need to accomplish it. For a single mother she might need money, or child care. So I share the needs with the team, so we can meet them. The other thing I do is always cultivate leadership skills in others, so that they are confident to take over, when it’s time for me to move on. I’m good at establishing new ventures and then hand over the reins and move on to something else. I’ve seen a lot of volunteer organisations fold, because the team leaders hold all the power and control until they burn out. It helps to remember that no one is indispensable, except God.
The Leadership gift that I work on the most is that of listening. People have needs and wants that they want attended to. They often speak with hesitation because of the way they have often been treated in the past. In thinking and praying with them and the apostles (as they roamed the eart in the first century)Leadership also means to me the willingness to go that extra mile in serving the people of God. , I see the kindness, goodness and generosity of the apostles in dealing with the community. I want to have those same leadership gifts and I do try to use them now.
The community I try to serve is sometimes a small prayer community, it is sometimes the community I pray with at Mass and it is sometimes the community that the Pope calls us to in serving others globally. In the past I would often think that if it were a socal occasion, if I had time I would attend. Now, I realize through the grace of God that these are particularly important occasions in which people share their lives in meaningful ways. May God continue to assist us in being listeners to one another and part of that community.
Respecting God in the Other makes collaboration smooth and cooperation joyful for all.