All believers want to be the best for God! And yet, sadly, when the word ‘Christian’ is associated with some activities the expectation in the eyes of the world is that it will be second rate. That should not be the case! With this in mind part of the mandate to the Newfrontiers Task Team ‘Embracing the Poor’ has been the development of materials and training opportunities under the title ‘Pursuing Excellence’, which is on-going. Through these materials and activities the hope is to raise the standards of ministries among the poor so that they become exemplary.
To achieve this we have sought to define ‘good practice’ in many areas and to equip people to exercise it. There is value in assessing how we do things to see if we can introduce improvements. This may apply in many areas of ministry, but two obvious categories would be a) those related to people e.g. how we care for those we are serving and those who are carrying out the ministry, and b) those affecting integrity, e.g. how we handle finance.
What is Good Practice?
Good Practice is God’s Practice. As Kingdom people we should seek to do all that we do to a high standard. Was it not God Himself who said at the end of every stage of creation “It is good”? The gospels teach about good stewardship (e.g. the parable of the talents), which involves people making good use of gifting and resources, and of course caring for people ‘wholistically’ (intentional misspelling to emphasise the whole person). God’s practice is demonstrated by His love for us. God’s love believes for the best and looks to see each person reach the potential for which he or she was created.
How do we earth the phrase ‘good practice’? It is a phrase that carries opinion; it is not absolute. Some years ago management consultants in the USA produced a book In Search of Excellence(Tom Peters and Robert H Waterman Jr (2004). In Search Of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. Harper Business Essentials). In that they described some research they had done based on the premise that there are companies whom most would acknowledge as good and efficient. They set out to identify the characteristics that led to this excellence.
As we look at what different churches are doing both within the Newfrontiers family and outside, and, indeed, what is being done through secular agencies, we recognise there are activities which many would generally acknowledge as being good models e.g. Foundations for Farming [formerly Farming God’s Way] in Zimbabwe, HIV community care in South Africa, Karuna leprosy ministry in India, Asylum Seekers ministries in the North of England – the list is a long one! The challenge for us, as with the above management consultants, is to define what the characteristics are that bring us to this conclusion.
An extensive research programme seemed inappropriate so the Newfrontiers Task Team for Embracing the Poor discussed what some of the characteristics are that we would expect to see demonstrated among ‘excellent’ ministries. The result was a list of 20 Key Indicators.
Before we go any further I want you to watch this video of work among leprosy sufferers in Mumbai, India. Have a notepad beside you and jot down anything you feel demonstrates ‘good practice’. On the next blog you will be able to see how your opinion compares to that of the Task Team!