Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Churches doing charity?

One of the difficult things for church communities is how to do social justice well. It is something that I have and our church community has continually wrested with. Some of the option are::
1) Start some sort of program such as a dinner, soup kitchen. As one friend put it "Christian charity"
This looks great but has a number of issues ::
  • Need to have people who are committed
  • need administrative and some policies in place.
  • need to have a medium to large church to make this happen well.
  • start up and ongoing cost
  • a tendency to do thing "for people", not "with people"
  • program orientated
  • Any scene of Christian formation is devoid in the program, for the leaders as well as participants
There are real positives, if done well, real social capital can be achieved.

2) Joining what is already happening. If there are local projects happening, join in with the community working along side what is already happening.
For us at Ranges in many ways this has been the only real option in some ways.
  • Others take administrative, policy responsibility
  • It can mean greater choice for people to choose, where they feel they are called
  • chance to rub up along side non-Christians
3) Just doing a one off project. We at Ranges have done this well especially regarding environmental stuff. Clean up Australia as well as National tree planting day.
Unfortunately there is not that much ongoing relationships.

All of these have a number of overlapping issues, for me.

The greatest is the 'For people', instead of 'With people'. People participate in the project because it makes them feel good, they are doing something. Not because they want to journey with someone.
Fundamentally it is about 'Spiritual formation'. Is Spiritual formation included in the project where people, leaders and participants on a journey towards a better knowledge, understanding, relationship with God? I would say yes there is an element of 'Spiritual Formation' in any project but how effective and ongoing is it?

In many ways I think that there has to be some responsibility with education with those leading the project encouraged to look at there own Spiritual formation as well as the participants. This maybe one way of overcoming this issues.

Don't get me wrong I still think social justice, projects are worthwhile, but I think we/others can do a lot better.


1 comment:

Nathan Hobby said...

Good post - you've clarified some of my own thoughts. Our church has the problem of being so spread out that its impossible to even find anything 'local' to the whole congregation. And we're in the richest part of Perth, with injustice at best very hidden from us.