“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12)
Even when love of neighbor is one’s chief guiding principle, it is not always clear how to proceed. In 2014, the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd articulated a strategic objective to “equip ourselves to respond to need.” As we have worked toward that objective, we have studied the cycle of generational poverty and become aware that some ways of responding to need unwittingly foster dependency. We are learning the power of partnerships with other organizations, and we are beginning to build more meaningful relationships with those we seek to serve than a simple “transfer of resources” model allows.
The following guiding principles and strategies began to take shape in a Sunday School class that focused on how we can best serve our neighbors. They were reviewed and revised by other groups within the congregation, including the Church Council, who approved them in September 2015 as a guide for our outreach ministries. They summarize our values and point us in the direction of authentic partnerships as we seek to respond to need.
Advocate for political and economic reforms that address issues of systemic injustice and chronic need.
Instead of doing for people what they can/should do for themselves, work with people to empower them to move towards greater self-sufficiency.
Recognize we need to be in for the long haul; avoid attempting quick fixes and accept that we will not reach everyone.
Build genuine relationships with the people we wish to serve; solicit invitations and input from the target community.
From the outset, identify clear objectives and means of evaluating the effectiveness of a ministry.
Don’t confuse the level of volunteer commitment or activity with the level of ministry success.
Assess the “carrying capacity” of the church before initiating or expanding a ministry.
“Due diligence” – research organizations and project models before committing.
Differentiate crisis from chronic need and transition from crisis assistance to enhanced self-sufficiency/community development as quickly as possible.
Do an initial impact study to discover likely consequences and anticipate the need for flexibility in addressing unforeseen challenges and opportunities resulting from a ministry.
Consider the strengths of the target community as well as its weaknesses; consult and involve leadership within the target community.
Focus on only one or two new ministries while continuing to support successful ministries already in place.
Collaborate with other churches/agencies, especially those of the ELCA and our ecumenical partners, whenever appropriate.
Approved by the LCGS Church Council on September 15, 2015