5 Ways to Build Your Church Community While Giving Back
- Find a cause that your church community cares about
It can be overwhelming to think about the totality of the need in the world right now. So many need so much, including physical, emotional, spiritual and economic support.
Those living in extreme poverty first need the basics – food, shelter and clean drinking water – and then community-building to help them on their journey to self-sufficiency. That includes everything from building schools and medical centers to expanding educational programs and economic opportunities.
How can you decide how to mobilize when there are so many options? How can you find focus? After all, you have limited time, energy and resources. Here are a few ideas:
- Ask small groups like Bible studies and Sunday school classes to brainstorm a list of ideas. They may know of specific needs from firsthand experience or previous mission trips. Members of your church can also do research and see which needs stir passion. Someone can compile a list of the ideas that resonate and share them more broadly with the church community in worship services, open houses, emails and newsletters. This also helps to build buy-in so that more people are invested – emotionally and financially – once a group goal is decided.
- Partner with an organization with a long history of doing humanitarian work, like Food For The Poor. They’ve identified key needs and made connections to ensure your efforts will be fruitful and lasting. Ed Raine, the nonprofit’s president and CEO, recently said: “Food For The Poor’s mission is to link the church in the United States with the church in the developing countries in a manner that helps both the materially poor and the poor in spirit. It is a reflection of our Lord’s unconditional love that embraces all people, regardless of race, status or creed.”
- Provide a scholarship to empower someone
Truck drivers across the globe are in high demand. That can present life-changing economic opportunities in nations with the highest need. In Honduras, after a 700-hour program, new truckers can earn a salary that is nearly twice the minimum wage.
But many women are unable to make this career shift because they simply can’t afford the training – and the time away from paying work to do it.
Through the Women’s Empowerment Scholarship, Food For The Poor donors have helped dozens of women find opportunity and stability. These new truck drivers are better serving themselves, their families and their communities as they transport important products.
Here’s how your church can stay engaged after funding scholarships: Check in with the scholarship recipients and track their progress. Pray for them in your church or small group. Encourage them by sending handwritten letters. Later, discuss whether you’d like to fund more scholarships or pivot to another project.
Questions to consider:
- Is there a scholarship you or your church could provide to equip someone with new skills?
- Where are the labor shortages in your community or in a developing country? ● What’s a doable and engaging career path for someone in need? ● Could you create a partnership with an educational institution or training program that makes your scholarship dollars go even further?
- How many of your friends and family members would it take to donate $100 to make one scholarship a reality? Or is there a local business owner who may agree to match your contribution?
- Organize a mission trip
A great way to learn more about the needs of a developing nation is to visit. Organize or go on a mission trip. You’ll do some good, and you may also be inspired. Your passion can be infectious, leading others to join a cause.
One Virginia college student who went on a mission trip to Haiti said everyone in her group came back changed.
“This change is visible in many ways,” Brooke Engelbrekssten said. “People can go out and start an organization, they can choose to waste less water every day, or they can choose to simply lead a life more dedicated to God.”
Go in with an open mind. You’ll see different ways of living and have a better understanding of a community’s needs – and how you can help.
Share your experience with your friends at church. How?
- Ask the leader of your small group – whether that’s a youth group, Bible study or Sunday school class – if you can have 10 minutes to share photos and talk about the work you did, the people you met and the needs they have.
- Ask a church leader if there are other small groups you could reach. Stop by and give a brief presentation about your mission trip.
- Post on your social media. Share photos and a meaningful message. Tag your church or post directly on their pages.
- Submit photos and an article to the church newsletter, or design a half-page that can be inserted into bulletins.
- Start with a small goal that can have lasting impact
Where should you or your church start? One idea is to start with a single tangible goal, such as “Let’s help five families in Latin America build safe, lasting homes” or “Let’s raise enough money to feed 50 children for an entire year.”
Find a good starting point. Learning about the needs in another part of the world and raising some money to help them will make an impact – for you, your church and the people you’re serving.
You may be surprised by how much support you find, and this could pave the way for even bigger projects.
- Take on a transformative project, like building a village
The congregation at Nativity Catholic Church last year presented the last round of donations to complete Nativity Village in Balan, Haiti. A multipurpose center for job-related training and events along with 70 two-bedroom homes have been built. Construction is now under way for the primary school, playground area and income-producing projects.
The next community project in Haiti is already in the works. Most residents are earning less than $1 per day. Safe housing, water and sanitation will be cornerstones of the village.
Questions to consider:
- What kind of transformative project would you be energized to be part of? ● What knowledge, connections and resources would you need to be successful?
- Would a partnership help with the logistics, allowing you to focus your effects on rallying your congregation and truly making a difference?
Seven Saves, a new program through Food For the Poor, can provide everything your church needs to identify and execute a meaningful project that will lift more people out of poverty.
It’s good for the poor but also makes good things happen in your church, like the shared goals that build community and keep your congregation working together and actively invested in outcomes.
Seven Saves is a robust “plug-and-play” initiative that provides you with planning and resources, with no commitment of church budget.