Becoming Whole Through Formative Practices
Adapted from A Field Guide to Becoming Whole
Building God’s kingdom community means working to replace destructive formative practices with those that lead to true flourishing. The Ministry Design Principles we’re highlighting this week focus heavily on the relational aspect of poverty alleviation. After all, we are each innately relational beings with minds, affections, wills, and bodies, and we need to remember this as we walk alongside people in material poverty.
Ministry Design Principle 13: All Interventions Should be Pro-Work
In a majority of circumstances, the most sustainable resolution to material poverty is employment that allows individuals to earn living wages. God ordained work as the primary way for people to provide for themselves and to have something to share with others (Gen. 1:28-29; Eph. 4:28). Therefore, work is essential to ending material poverty.
As we’ve discussed previously, work is not just a means to an end but one of the central features of being priest-rulers. Thinking about the four key relationships (God, self, others, and the rest of creation), the relationship with creation becomes damaged when people cannot engage in sustaining work. This absence distorts the other three relationships and prevents true flourishing.
Of course, ministries that address physical and mental needs are still necessary. As people are whole beings, they still need health care, mental health counseling, housing, Bible studies, emergency assistance, clean water, nourishing food, and so on. A host of issues needs to be addressed, but all of these ministries should be designed with the end goal of restoring people to sustaining work.
Ministry Design Principle 14: Encourage All Stakeholders to Give Sacrificially
The eternal love that exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit overflows in self-sacrificial generosity. In the cross we see the clearest manifestation of God’s self-giving love and grace, and this is why it became the greatest symbol for shaping our growth and imitation of Christ (Mark 8:34; John 15:12-13; Eph. 5:1-2; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 3:16).
So, as we grow more fully as image bearers of our loving God — as we become increasingly whole — we give sacrificially. The fact that sacrificial giving is central to human flourishing turns standard approaches to poverty alleviation upside down. One could argue that one of the primary measures of success in our poverty alleviation ministries should be the extent to which sacrificial giving increases in all stakeholders — staff, donors, volunteers, and those experiencing material poverty.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for what this giving should look like, but ministries should encourage all stakeholders to give time, treasure, and/or talents in service to others.
Ministry Design Principle 15: Foster Whole-Person Discipleship using Adult Education Training Techniques
Given that people are mind-affections-will-body-relational creatures, we would expect pedagogical approaches that engage the whole person would be more effective than a lecture-based approach. And, indeed, this is the case. Using brain imaging technology, researchers have found that transformative learning occurs when human beings engage in a repeated action-reflection cycle that equally impacts thoughts (mind), feelings (affections), and actions (will). As we’ve said before, true Christianity doesn’t choose between belief and action, between content and engagement – Christians participate in an active and lived faith.
Flowing out of this, “dialogue education” (developed by Dr. Jane Vella and Global Learning Partners) establishes the practice of facilitation in place of teaching. It levels the playing field, respecting the knowledge, experiences, and contributions of all the participants. In other words, it is asset-based and participatory. Through highly engaging activities and reflective questions digested in the context of a supportive community, walls begin to break down, and participants slowly start to embrace the good news of God’s story of change.
Moving Toward Wholeness and Kingdom Flourishing
A large part of becoming whole means championing the engagement in sustaining work, the act of sacrificial generosity, and the use of adult education techniques. Neither our ministries nor our communities can compromise on the idea that all humans are mind-affections-will-body-relational creatures and that we have relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. Acknowledging and incorporating these facts can only lead to greater and more meaningful development as we seek to empower our neighbors.