Success Factors for Christian Community Development

A Christian doing community development should base their work on a Biblical world view. We propose the following development principles should be considered when Christians undertake development projects.
• The main emphasis should be upon changed individual lives, rather than changed social structures. Changed lives produce a changed society. The basis of this change is a personal relationship with Christ. The greatest permanent development results are achieved when “born-again” Christians are taught to multiply their newly acquired values and skills.
• The concept of self-help is indispensable to the development process. Development must lead to self-reliance. Self-reliance must be rooted a t the local level, within the pr actices of the community, and must be under God’s direction.
• It is preferable to start a project in communities where local initiative has been previously demonstrated.
• Success in community development depends upon the participation of those who stand to benefit from it. This is best accomplished by using committees re presenting the people. However, if the committee members do not know their role, there will be little participation by the people. It is crucial that committees undergo o thorough, intensive training.
• Development must be people-centered, not project-centered or technically-oriented. Any program must start where the people are, not where we think they are, or where we would like them to be.
• Help people identify and then meet their interests. A program should be designed to meet the interests of the maximum number of people that can be served within the context of those participating.
• Focus on the assets that are found in the community not the needs for what is not found in the community.
• Development should be concerned with methods that are simple and cost effective and use local resources, whenever possible. Development must be economically sound to be permanent. Financing and supplies should come, to a major extent, from the community. Outside input should be minimal or on the basis of “seed” funds. Supplies and materials, when needed, should be available consistently from sources within the country.
• A major criteria for success should be: Will the results be ongoing in the lives of people after the change agents leave? Development must encourage and promote community leadership. It is vital to find a person who will champion the program within the local community. This person must have the time, vision, and influence to make the program his own. Without such a person, most projects will fail to be fully effective. We learned early that there must be an influential person in the community who will assume responsibility for the project and see it as his and the community’s.
• Change comes about best when there are good role models whom the people can observe and follow. These role models should be people who others respect and desire to copy.
• Home visitation by the leaders, trainers, and trainees is critical. Through visitation in homes, real life situations can be observed and meaningful mentoring can take place on the spot.
• The people of the community must recognize that they have a high priority interest and have a strong desire to deal with that interest. They must also have sufficient confidence in themselves to feel that they can deal with it. Development should be indigenous, coming from the heart of the society. It is good to encourage people and to help them star t individual projects which are important to them. We want them to be successful, because they gain confidence and credibility through success.
• Whenever possible, community development solutions should be transferable to other locations and people in a such a way that their effectiveness is multiplied.
• The role of any outside helper should be as an encourager, catalyst, advisor, trainer, vision-giver, and co-learner, but not a doer or leader. Helpers should be willing to receive as well as to give. That is, they must be equals, not just givers or receivers. A good developer is a helper, a servant to the community.
• Much time and patience is required for lasting development to take place and to continue after the excitement of a new program dies down. In the beginning, the outside change agent is the initiator and the community is the receiver. Over a period of time, these positions should be reversed until outside input is eliminated. Development is a series of many small tasks and factors which lead to self-reliance. No single thing creates a successful development project. We found that a period of 9 to 12 months is required, just to enter the community and gain the confidence of the people. Then the training can begin. We also found that time, time, and more time must be spent with the people–living with, eating with, and relating to them. This process cannot be rushed. If it is rushed, lasting change is less likely to take place.
• It takes a minimum of 5 years for a program to become lasting and ongoing after trainers leave an area. Continuous work need not be going on, but periodic visits and training need to be done throughout. Less and less input will be required by the trainers as the local people take over more and more of the responsibility.
• Development should deal wholistically with man and not compartmentalize him into isolated segments. Man is a physical, spiritual, mental, and social being.
• In most third-world countries, a person’s physical health has traditionally been believed to be influenced by spirits. Here there is no separation into compartments—the physical-self and the spiritual-self. Both are seen as one and part of the whole.

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