Helping Grass-roots Leaders to Build and Manage an Effective Ministry
The Task Force for Strategy and Resource Development: AD2000 & Beyond
Reuben Ezemadu, Chairperson
James Engel and Jane Overstreet, Co-Coordinators
The Task Force on Strategy and Resource Development has an interesting mandate and history. In this article, Jane Overstreet, co- coordinator, tells the story as she has seen it through her eyes.
I sat in the room hardly able to comprehend what had just been said. It was hot and dusty. The fan droned in the background, but seemed to stir the air very little. The mosquitoes had abated for the moment, but would not be gone for long. All of these distractions, however, faded into the background as this man's words echoed in my ears.
"By the year 2000, there will be at least 19,000 orphans in the small capital city, left homeless and helpless because of the death of both parents from AIDS. This does not even include those who will have the possibility of relatives or friends taking them in. These orphans will have no options. If the church does not respond to this overwhelming need, who will?"
The question seemed to hang in the air long after the sound of his voice was gone. We continued to discuss a long list of physical and spiritual needs as this new friend listed them, including hunger, poverty, disease, lack of housing, and lack of education. The church is involved in evangelism, but they find that for every one coming into the front door of the church, two are going out the "back" door, returning to traditional religion or crime in order to meet their basic physical needs.
How many times, I wondered, could this story be repeated throughout the parts of the world most in need of evangelism? Later in the day, my partner, Dr. James Engel, partially answered my question.
As Jim related, it has become increasingly clear through his twenty years of travel and consulting in more than 60 countries, that the Church an its agencies need to develop leaders who can respond to the physical as well as spiritual needs of her people. It needs to be able to manage its resources and plan strategically for ministry. In short, it needs to do many things that pastors and ministry leaders are never trained to do.
Our other partner, Reuben Ezemadu from Nigeria, joined the discussion. Reuben founded an indigenous Nigerian mission more than 20 years ago which now has missionaries serving throughout parts of Africa. He began partnering with Jim Engel after using some of his materials and expertise to help train his missionaries in problem solving, leadership, resource management, communication, and local fund raising. Based on this experience they began to work together to help other organizations in the Two-Thirds World to attack the challenges they face and develop strategies which are appropriate for the context.
As we sat late into the night talking, Reuben expressed some of his concerns. Too often, he said, Christian leaders are offered "pre- packaged" programs of evangelization or church growth that have generated dramatic results elsewhere. For all their value, however, many are found to lose impact when applied in a different context.
Reuben's conviction is that the most effective strategies and best programs will come out of local thinking and planning--taking what is offered from outside, in many cases, but modifying it to make it truly useful in each situation. Too often, however, the Christian leaders have never been given the tools to enable them to think strategically and therefore are unable to do the adaptation which is necessary. This difficulty is compounded by a virtual absence of training in leadership, and the development and management of resources. As we prayed later that evening, I was suddenly reminded of an analogy of God's provision in nature. Living in Finland several years ago, I became aware of the vast number of wild blueberries that carpet the forests during certain times of the year. Knowing that nutrition has been a concern for the Finnish people because of the limited fruits and vegetables that grow in that far northern country, I was amazed to learn that just a handful of these sweet berries provide more vitamin C than several oranges.
"How like God," I thought, "to provide everything we really need if only we can be made aware of it." Is it possible that we, as church and ministry leaders, sometimes overlook the "blueberries" God has
provided to meet the needs of our people, while simultaneously wasting time and resources trying to import expensive "oranges?" How often we become discouraged when we have little success getting the local people to develop a taste for those "oranges."
The Task Force for Strategy and Resource Development The Task Force for Strategy and Resource Development of the AD2000 & Beyond Movement is chaired by Reuben Ezemadu. Jim Engel and I serve as co-coordinators. Its purpose is to help equip and empower AD2000 leaders to design and implement indigenous, culturally-relevant strategies with the goal of reaching the unreached peoples by AD2000 and beyond. This ministry has evolved out of the results of years of experience and research among Christian leaders living and working in the Two- Thirds World. The conclusion is that many leaders have serious concerns about the quality and appropriateness of evangelization that has taken place. There is a strong felt need for a leadership development program that equips them to rise to the challenge and meets these criteria:
1 appropriate to the culture and available on location 2 develops strategic plans that produce results 3 empowers local Christians to further the gospel 4 develops indigenous funding resources 5 integrates evangelism and economic development 6 creates accountability structures to ensure integrity 7 includes leadership guidance and counsel.
Take for example, the AD 2000 Committee formed in 1989 with Reuben Ezemadu as its chairman. They encouraged churches and organizations to come up with plans for evangelization for their spheres of influence over the next ten years. As discussions were held and plans were made, however, church leaders felt inadequate to carry out these plans and became discouraged.
Out of concern, a questionnaire was designed and distributed, asking these leaders what their challenges were and what they needed most in order to meet these challenges. The responses were very clear. What was needed was training in management, local fund raising, identifying resources, and leadership development.
Reuben invited Jim Engel to hold workshops in Nigeria on these subjects, and the results were exciting. Leaders began to see how to think through their problems. They discovered possibilities for what could meet their needs from the resources available to them, and they were helped to carry out their plans.
Obviously, a small group of resource people cannot go to all countries and minister firsthand in this way. As a result, this Taskforce functions to come alongside Christian leaders wherever they live and work in two ways:
1. Through Biblically-grounded educational materials which focus directly on the challenges they face. These materials do not require a university degree. They consist of sets of audio tapes and practical workbooks which contain helpful readings and assignments which guide in application. These materials are interactive--the participant listens to a few minutes of the tape, stops and responds to questions that directly relate to his/her ministry situation, and then continues in this practical way of learning.
2. Through a volunteer local or regional "field associate" who acts as a consultant in helping participants work through and apply what they have learned. We are in the process of recruiting volunteer Field Associates-- men and women who are already skilled in helping others develop effective ministry. They become members of the Taskforce Network. The Network, in turn, helps Field Associates by providing educational materials which they can adapt to the local situation. There will be ongoing interaction throughout the Network in the form of feedback of outcomes, seminars and workshops, and sharing of ideas.
The Coordinating Agency The Center for Organizational Excellence Although we are a new Task Force in the AD2000 Movement having been launched in December, 1994, the work of The Task Force for Strategy and Resource Development is essentially the same as the ministry of the Center for Organization Excellence in World Evangelization. This Center, founded by Dr. Engel in 1993, with Reuben Ezemadu, Dr. David Fraser, and others, is devoted to enhancing the effectiveness of Christian leaders worldwide.
In a recent visit to the Central African Republic, a team from the Center listened as more than 50 Christian leaders, pastors, and seminary students shared their understanding of the current ministry challenges of the church there. The cry was that the church must become more relevant to her people, especially to their physical needs. Their reasons were clear:
- When you talk about religion (or politics) and the people have hungry stomachs, it means nothing.
- Many missionaries who founded the churches taught about salvation, but they did not teach us how to live our faith here and now. We were taught to just sit and wait for help, but we must find a new way.
- Large numbers of church members leave, or compromise when they can find no other way to stay alive. They return to their traditional religion, or to crime and prostitution because they see no other way.
- Islam is a threat because it is using money to buy people.
- People feel the needs, but do not know how to express or attack them.
- Young people are the key to evangelism, but they must be helped to find work.
- The church needs to nurture "community" which has been diminished through Western influence in the society.
- The church needs to develop leaders who can lead the way in development ministries.
- Very little material is available in French or Songo (the native language) that teaches biblical approach to leadership development or the role of the church in managing her resources.
These are the conclusions of church leaders from just one small country in Africa, but they seem to represent the reflections of many in the Two-Thirds World.
The GCOWE Challenge As we approach GCOWE the challenge for national and regional leaders is to find strategies and develop plans to see the goals of the AD2000 movement fulfilled for their part of the world. They will be blessed with the multitude of resources that the various tracks provide. Almost like a huge platter filled with an amazing array of nourishing dishes, the materials and resources of the tracks will be shared and explained.
These national and regional leaders face the daunting task of sorting through this array to determine how to utilize effectively the best resources for their unique situation. What is appropriate in my culture? What should our specific goals be? Where will I find the resources to carry out our goals? How can we best utilize these track materials? What is the quality of the churches that are being planted? How do I help develop leaders who can effectively lead those churches after AD2000?
The Task Force for Strategy and Resource Development wants to serve the national and regional leaders with tools to help each one find their own unique answers to these and other questions. It is our hope that God will enable us to work alongside each of these leaders to provide the tools they need to find their own answers. We serve a creative God who we believe has, and will, provide all that we need to carry out His purposes.