25 years ago the elders of our local church (Church of Christ the King) were approached to launch a ‘soup kitchen’ in Brighton. Because the people concerned clearly had gifting and passion we endorsed their initiative and let them explore what God had for them. This is an important principle – build to gifting and passion (see my blog of Sept 29th 2009).
This ministry was highly successful in providing food and contact for those who were ‘street homeless’ in the area. Subsequently, this grew into an evening ‘drop in’ with food, and clothes and warm bedding were given to them. That continued but expanded to include a house where 12 men and women could be resident as a step towards independent living.
Rural skills and training
The most recent development is an initiative to expand this ministry to include skills training in a rural situation with horticulture, a rural apprenticeship scheme and other opportunities for full participation in the community with income generation and dignity.
Reflecting on the path we have taken
Much of this happened spontaneously, and I do not despise that. But as the scope of the ministry has grown we have asked some important questions about how this fits in to the wider scene, what the expectations are in the future etc. This is particularly important as we will need to seek funding and justify what we are doing on the basis of fulfilling need and being effective, not just improving the situation for some people in a somewhat ad hoc way. Ultimately we believe we should be seeing people so transformed that they become fully functioning members of society contributing to the welfare of the community and helping advance the commission of Jesus to ‘go into all the world’. This is the message of Is 61:1-3 where the good news to poor and disadvantaged people results in them becoming ‘oaks of righteousness’ whom the subsequent verses (4-9) show to be fully functioning as employers and influencers with an international and generational reputation. Have a look – its exciting!
So, ministry combines the spontaneous Spirit-lead sense of what is right with practical and sometimes pragmatic action. To be effective, however, it is helpful to have some framework on which decisions are made and through which the route to defined goals may be determined.
This series will be about creating such a framework. This framework is widely used in the development field. It will help you harness the gifts of people in your church, and to release them into fulfilling and effective ministry.
We shall begin with the need to identify what God is calling us to do. We shall then build on this by defining the need that the ministry is seeking to fulfil and how it fits into a wider picture. This will help us to have a sense of what we should and (often more importantly) what we should not be doing (knowing what not to do is sometimes more important than what to do!). The resulting framework will give us a basis for monitoring progress and seeking funding if needed.
So next time we shall look at combining the sense of God’s leading with identifying the need that is to be fulfilled.