The church can build up and train people with skills to lead and teach church members. In the same way, members may be trained in practical skills, such as in health, water and sanitation, literacy, agriculture or engineering.

When a church wants to reach out and be of practical help to the poor, it may lack knowledge and understanding of particular issues. Approaches can also change over time so new learning and understanding may be needed. Mistakes can be made. This is why so many churches leave ‘development work’ to the ‘experts’ – either in local organisations or in Church Development departments. However, churches are not setting themselves up in competition to prove they can do better. Churches can instead work alongside others, so that more people will benefit.

When considering any kind of development work, always ask skilled and experienced people first for their advice. Draw on the experience of government workers and NGO staff as well as Christian workers. Learn about what they are doing – and also what they are unable to do. Remember that the church is made up of many members, each of whom can reach out into the community in a unique way. Church members can share their faith through practical caring within their community, helping to change attitudes. Sometimes this can then open the way for other organisations to carry out other skilled work.

Discussion 
  • What can church members provide that an NGO or government office cannot?
  • How could our church members work effectively alongside a government campaign on HIV/AIDS awareness or domestic violence, for example? What can the church offer that government officials cannot?
  • How can our church network effectively with local organisations and government offices? In what ways could developing such links ensure good practice in our work?
  • How can the church make sure that it sets an example others will want to follow? How can it encourage others to share in practical action?
  • Read the story of the Good Samaritan again in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus challenges us to show mercy to all, without judging, and to see our neighbours as whole people with physical as well as spiritual needs.
  • How does Jesus call us to love others? What is the cost of this kind of love?
  • The Samaritan asked the innkeeper to take care of the injured man while he attended to other business. How can we support one another in responding to the needs of our neighbours?
  • What would be the likely impact of this kind of love on our neighbours and on ourselves?
  • Can we truly love God without loving our neighbours in this way?