There’s only so far a good heart and good intentions will take you. If you’re going to work towards significant and lasting change in a community you need to have some skin in the game.
Ministers are so… transient. We move from ministry to ministry and in many cases we move from community to community. The people in our churches know it and our fellow staff people know it.
I think this is one of the reasons why associate staff people get fired so easily. Because churches can. Rather than wrestle with the tension of putting up with you, like churches have to do with people who live in the community and voluntarily come to the church, if you are a staff person who is out to change things it’s relatively easy to get you to move away.
If that church lets you go your house will be on the market in a matter of months. Take that, sucker!
Skin in the game? Pfft. Not if its tied to your job.
Of course, it’s not just ministers who infamously don’t have skin in the game. Here are some things that surprise me.
- School teachers who don’t live in the neighborhood their students come from.
- Church leaders who don’t live in the neighborhood immediately around their church.
- Locals who complain about a lack of local businesses yet buy from big box stores or Amazon.
- Community leaders who say they are all about school yet send their kids to private school or homeschool. (I once knew a principal who homeschooled, er.. what?!?)
- Police and city employees who don’t live in the city they work in.
Ultimately, when you don’t have skin in the game what you are doing is either just a job… or you are depending on good intentions and your heart to be right.
But everyone else, whether they verbalize it or not, knows you’re not fully invested. And it’s a big reason you can get anything lasting done. Until you put your skin in the game you’re just a short-timer.
Here’s how you get skin in the game:
- Invest locally. Did you know you can use money from an IRA to invest in a local small business? Yeah, talk to your tax person. If you can’t buy a home where you live, get some skin in the game by investing in a small business you like. Don’t know how to have that conversation? Get to know the owner of your favorite local spot… and ask them. “If I were to want to invest $20,000 in this business, how could you improve it?” It’s that easy.
- Buy locally. Look, here’s Economics 101. If you don’t spend your money in your neighborhood that money is going somewhere else. Want great places to eat? Eat locally. Want a great grocery store? Shop at the local guy. On and on. Every time you buy something from Amazon or go to a big box store you are sucking money out of the local economy and sending it somewhere else.
- Live locally. Get over the excuses. (They are just obstacles) Until you live with the community you want to impact you’re just kidding yourself about making a lasting impact. You’re going to care about where you live more than where your work is, bottom line. So if you want some skin in the game your zip code is going to need to match where you want to impact.
- Educate locally. If I hear one more person talk about loving his neighborhood but sends his kids to a Christian or parochial school, I’ll scream. If you want to make your local schools better the ONLY way you’re going to make lasting changes is if your kids are there. Yup, our kids go to a charter school. But it’s also a charter school that saved a neighborhood school from getting shut down. Almost all of the kids come from within walking distance.
- Get involved locally. Start attending a board which directly oversees the stuff you care about. Into community gardening? You better be at that planning committee meeting. Care about schools? Get your butt to the school board meetings. Love your neighborhood? Find a local neighborhood board and be a part of it.
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