Q&A with Ruth Evans

Q&A with Ruth Evans


Ruth Evans is the executive director of Unite, a multicultural, multi-denominational movement of churches in the greater Atlanta area. She was also the founder and previous executive director of 2nd Mile, a holistic community development ministry. Evans consults, speaks and trains on topics of reconciliation, culture and community development.

Q: Let’s talk about generational engagement. Have you seen people at certain stages of life or of certain ages engage in community outreach more than others? Who makes up these groups? 01

For sure Millennials and the younger generation; it’s just part of their DNA and the way that they view life. I have also seen people who are retired get involved when they feel like they have more time on their hands. Sometimes a stay-at-home spouse might get involved. Honestly though, I have seen very committed and involved people from virtually every stage of life, from college students to young singles to married people with middle school–aged kids.

I think that there are some generational and cultural dynamics that create more awareness for some, like Millennials and Gen Z. But if a certain value is burning in a person’s heart, no matter what stage of life they are in, they are going to figure out a way to prioritize getting involved in a group that facilitates that passion.

Q: What have you seen spark or ignite a desire to take action in groups or individuals? 02

I think de-isolation or being close to a person who is impacted by something is one of the biggest motivators. For example, if I am good friends with someone whose dad gets deported, suddenly it’s not a philosophy that I’m arguing about anymore. It’s a person who has been impacted and is hurting as a result of something going wrong in the world.

The closer people venture into others’ lives, the more motivated they are to be engaged. You only see brokenness when you get close to it. When you see it from a distance, you have lots of ideas and theories about it, but the closer you get to it and start to feel its impact, the more you realize something has to be done.

Q: When analyzing successful groups, what are they doing that helps bring about change in the community? What can help groups stay together for a longer period of time? 03

I think there has to be real people-to-people, relational contact to create change in the world. But often, a group also does have to be combined with some sort of structure or institution that helps it keep moving forward.

There are a lot of people who start groups because they have an emotional response to something, but that emotion soon fizzles out and doesn’t last. I think there is a need for really good vision, good support, community connectedness, good clarity, a team who owns the vision together and leadership development and succession. Organizations may be around 20 or 30 years because they have a really good, strong founder, but if they are not very intentional about developing the next tier of leaders, that group will die when the leader dies, especially if it’s personality-centric versus vision-centric.

Q: Should we be empowering people in the Church to start their own volunteer initiatives instead of waiting on their church? 04

I think churches should be casting the vision and leadership for community involvement and proactively developing leaders within their congregation who could help move the congregation out into those spaces.

While I don’t think churches are by any means often the experts in most of these areas, the world around us looks at the Church and either says, “Why aren’t you here?” or, “The Church is here in our space, in the places that matter to us.”

I believe there should be a sense of connectedness and togetherness toward certain initiatives. One church isn’t going to connect with every person’s passion, but if there are 12 churches in the community that are connected, even if you only have a few people from each church who are interested in a specific cause, now you have a group who can go after something together.

It’s hard to describe how incredible it can be in a community where people are led and equipped to live into both the spiritual relationship with Jesus and the social relationship with neighbors. The churches that do that are a powerful force for change in their communities.

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