The church is called by God to change the world – but just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you’re an expert. If you want to run a good community development programme and have a positive impact on poverty and need, these tips may save you some pain.
Before you embark on a project overseas, no matter how excited you are about it, there are some critical issues to think through
The Bible teaches us that God’s desire is for us to be in good relationship with him, with each other and with the world he has made. One of the most valuable things you can do when confronted with poverty is to build relationships, make friends – and let any projects flow from that.
Remember that you’re there to learn as well as to do. Identify local expertise, skills and knowledge and work with it – find out how the local people do things. If you find you and others from your church are the only ones doing the task and the local community isn’t involved, something has gone wrong.
If you’re going to run a project yourselves, you don’t need to spend time and energy reinventing the wheel. We’ve been working with overseas church-based partners for 8 years, actively engaged in all kinds of development projects, and we’ve learnt a lot from our mistakes.
One of the most valuable things you can offer overseas churches engaging with poverty in their local community is written resources. We produce Footsteps, a quarterly magazine in seven languages for grassroots development workers overseas, full of information, ideas and experience in a Christian context. Tell your overseas church partners about it and suggest they get on the mailing list by visiting our International Learning Zone website – there’s a wealth of information and advice available and it’s all free.