In this penultimate posting on Key Indicators to Good Practice we shall consider two Indicators related to the context and environment in which a ministry is being carried out.

9. Local community ownership

Some ministries are contained within the local church whereas others intentionally impact a local community. Where the latter is the case the active endorsement and cooperation of the local community may be key contributors to success. It can be tempting to feel that the church has the knowledge to carry out the ministry independently of any outside influence. But often community representatives will have a better understanding of the culture you may be trying to impact than is readily available within your local church.

In the development world there are various participatory techniques for involving the Community such as Participatory Learning and Action (PLA). Using such methods provides an effective way of helping to define the problem and the priorities as seen by the community themselves. Working with the community to look at the history, the geographical environment, the social climate and so on gives valuable insights into the needs and some of the issues related to local culture or social strata.

photo-for-nr-1 I remember visiting a coal-mining area in north east India where the Nepali workers were expected to endue extremely dangerous working conditions and experience a physical atmosphere which was threatening to their long term health. As I sat with them and discussed their situation I confidently expected them to see that addressing these issues would be their highest priorities. How wrong I was! They were more concerned about the fact that there were no banking facilities through which they could save their earnings before sending them back to their families in Nepal. Only sensitive consultation and listening revealed this.

It is important to consider how well a particular Christian ministry can be integrated into the local community, with their active participation in its planning and implementation. However, although involvement of the interested parties (stakeholders) can be very beneficial, Christian values and spiritual leadership must not be compromised, even if by insisting on these donor funds may be withheld, as some have experienced.

10.Use of God-given Resources

In Ex 4:2-5 God used the staff in Moses’ hand to convince him of his authority in the situation. In Mk 6:33-44 Jesus performed a mighty miracle with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. What was happening in these two situations? Quite simply, the resources available were being mobilised to achieve the intended purpose.

In our modern technological and materialistic society we often feel that a particular task cannot be achieved without sophisticated resources. Yet in many poorer nations I have often been amazed at people’s resourcefulness and at what is achieved with very basic materials.

There is a process called ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ through which people can be taught to find solutions to their difficulties by observing and mobilising the resources around them. By recognising what they have within themselves or in their environment people can become contributors to the solution rather than ‘receivers’. Great fulfilment comes to someone who has succeeded in creatively using resources available in their local context and sphere of influence to make a positive contribution to their own welfare.

Next time you face a problem and are inclined to ‘call in the expert’ I challenge you to stop and consider whether there is a solution at hand which can be implemented with a little ingenuity. It can be both fun and very satisfying!

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