BELIZE JOURNAL PT. 2 on long range community development. Our current Festival of Hope evangelism campaign peaks with a week of gospel activities July 16-22. But we must look beyond it for long range community development for Belize. Already we’ve planned a 12-week discipleship program for converts. And Kenrick Burns’ upcoming seminar for pastors will help to specifically disciple gang leaders. What comes after that?
Whether gangsters or street people, students or dropouts, we can expect that most of our converts will be young, from broken families, and inexperienced in making an honest living. As will be most of those who have not yet converted. How can we go beyond changing hearts, to changing living conditions, families and neighborhoods with the grace of Christ?
We must approach this humbly as fellow learners. We will have testimonies of God’s grace in our own lives. But we must also admit our own brokenness. We must also admit we need Christ as much as anyone else. If we don’t, we can actually hurt people more than help them. That’s what the book When Helping Hurts is all about. We can do for others what we would have them do for us. But if we do for others what they can do for themselves, we rob them of God-given opportunities to exercise and grow in their God-given skills.
As each church considers how to address a community’s needs, this book has some great advice:
Compile a directory of organizations involved in community development.
Look for your niche.
Assess how your church’s experiences, vision, attitudes and skills can contribute to long-term community development.
Involve the community in designing, implementing & evaluating your development program.
Use Asset-Based Community Development to match their own assets to their needs.
Conduct a focus group discussion to ask first what are their assets, then their needs.
Assets include land, social networks, knowledge, schools, skills, and equipment.
Help connect local associations, churches, businesses, schools & government in using assets.
Make sure each demographic group participates, bringing its own perspective.
Foster triggers for change: a crisis or new way of seeing things can spur their initiative.
Ask them how their gifts, abilities and assets can meet the crisis.
Ask them what they can learn from past crises experienced by their community.
Teach both the technical and general skills that they lack.
Technical skills may become outdated in the fast-changing world economy.
General skills include reliability, punctuality, cordiality and flexibility.
Teach how to get a job through social networks and placement organizations.
Teach how to manage, save and increase their wealth and assets.
Start church-based mentor teams to love, encourage & connect them to God & people.
Teams meet each participant monthly to help take steps to an action plan.
Start with the people most receptive to change.
When they succeed, more will be receptive to change.
We’re not looking for numbers, but for individuals on whom God is already moving, and who are responding to His moves. If we help them grow, they will be fruitful and multiply. Those are the numbers God wants!
DailyInsight. Don’t turn a church into a business. Instead, seek to turn businesses into enterprises full of prayer, praise and prophetic words (See Col. 3:23-24).
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Christians must also mobilize for long range community development.