John McKnight: Finding Our Neighbourhood Treasure Chest

Imagine finding something so good that you would change your life to have it. What would it have to be? One of Jesus’ teachings used this analogy, he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Most treasures we really long for are not things we can buy, but often something we are given to care for and nurture: a gift. Our communities are treasures, full of people and stories that really and truly matter. However we often overlook what is right before us. Our eyes are not easily adjusted to see the treasures we have in our relationships and connections, in the unseen beauty before us.

The City of Chestermere, as part of their Senior’s Week, hosted an online workshop about community resiliency and connectedness. We hosted John McKnight, a prominent and active practitioner and author who has shaped much of the current thinking about how we create vibrant communities. He said that our neighbourhoods are a “treasure chest” of valuable people who have what we need to thrive. Our challenge is that we do not see what is right before us, we do not ask, and we do not connect others together.

John McKnight invited us to go and find the gifts, skills, and passions in our neighbourhoods. He believes that when people are invited to share what they have, many are excited to do so because it is so meaningful to them. In several communities across North America, people are doing just that. They are going down the street and asking everyone on their neighbourhood what their gifts are, things that they are born with – innate abilities. Then asking what their skills are, things they have learned. And finally, what their greatest passions are, things they love to do. Then they are asked if they would share their gifts, skills, and passions. In most cases people said ‘yes!’ We find joy and meaning in sharing what we have, and gathering others around.

In one community they found that 12 people liked biking, 10 liked sewing, 2 had a passion for cutting trees, 7 liked to organize, 6 were skilled in safety, and 23 were interested in art. In all, they identified 330 neighbours with 180 gifts that they were willing to share. A treasure trove. It took a few people to simply begin to ask, and they found that right in front of them was a thriving community of people with so much to share.

John McKnight says that the world would not benefit from more isolated leaders, but from more connectors. Leaders may not see the big picture as they try to chart a course, while connectors look for what is present, and believes in the power of linking stories together. Neighbourhood connectors believe in the treasure chest on every street, and step out with the belief that more people, connected in more ways, will create the kind of communities we all hope for.

What if our communities had such a treasure to be found that we would be willing to jump up, and “in our joy” go and find it. I think this kind of heart for the better way can make us rich with relationships, a new kind of security, and full of meaningful care and hope for a better way. What treasure chest is found in your neighbourhood?

About the author

Preston Pouteaux

Preston Pouteaux

Preston is a pastor at Lake Ridge Community Church in Chestermere and experiments mostly in the intersection of faith and neighbourhood. Into the Neighbourhood explores how we all contribute to creating a healthy and vibrant community. Preston is also a beekeeper; a reminder that small things make a big difference.


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