Recently I was with some church leaders in Holland. I asked them what the word ‘project’ (suitably translated!) conjured up in their minds. The list included such terms as Time Boundaries, Finance, Project Manager, Process. After about ten words or phrases had been listed I pointed out than none of them reflected the people they were hoping to help thus showing that ‘project’ tends to be a very task-associated word.
In the church we are talking about people; people within the church and people outside. I suggest that we should not talk about ‘project’ but about ‘ministry’. The work in your church with the children is not the ‘children’s project’ but the children’s ministry. The word ‘project’ has unhelpful connotations.
By using the word ‘project’ when working with people who are disadvantaged we are perpetuating and high-lighting their differences from what we arrogantly adjudge to be ‘normal’. By registering a charity and talking about it in the church merely reinforces this damaging perception.
So how can we use a charity structure positively without carrying this negativity?
Inward looking and outward looking
I am encouraging my local church to see that the reason for a separate charity should be evident outside the church not within it. It exists primarily for our interaction with the world and that is where it should have its profile.
Internally, or looking inward, the people in our churches need not know there is a charity which is providing legal and financial support for a particular ministry. It is better to speak about our ministry with homeless people in the same way as we would talk about our ministry with children in order to emphasise that both are integral parts of the church and our commission to advance the Kingdom in our community.
So, ‘charity’ > outward, ‘ministry’ > inward.
This change in perception may be reflected in the church’s annual budget. The whole budget for every aspect of ministry should be seen as one entity, reflecting the life and ministry of the church. The income stream to the different ministries may differ – members’ giving, donor funding etc. – but those income streams should not separate any particular ministry from being treated in the same way as all others.
Next time we will look at the objects of the charity