Mon | Dec 9, 2019

- Moving beyond begging

Published:Sunday | November 17, 2019 | 12:27 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston - Gleaner Writer

To all the people who are fighting for the broken

All the people who keep holding on to love

All the people who are reaching for the lonely

Keep changing the world

– Mikeschair

Christians are some of the most financially overburdened people. Although many of them face financial challenges themselves, they are often expected to tithe, to give offerings for various ministries, and also to give the occasional ‘special offering’, which goes towards assisting members who are worse off than they are.

But with so many members being unemployed, churches struggle to make any meaningful impact on those who are seeking assistance.

Many believe that the Church shouldn’t beg so much, but rather, create a programme that will see them giving and maybe even creating employment for their own.

God’s hands and feet

Blogger and investment enthusiast Terri-Ann Malabre shared that as Christians, we are called to be God’s hands and feet on the Earth. “That means we are called to love, teach, care for others, and give of our resources. The Church has always been a vehicle for benevolence. To do those good works, church leaders often look to their members to fund these activities. There is nothing wrong with this approach as long as it is not exploitative or coercive because as mentioned, that is a part of what we are called to do,” she said.

Unfortunately, however, Malabre said that a lot of church leaders have not evolved beyond this type of fundraising, and, as such, members may feel more than a little burdened and somewhat guilted into trying to meet all the obligations of the building fund, scholarship fund, organ fund, etc.

“A more comprehensive approach needs to be taken to raise funds. The Church isn’t short of bright and talented individuals, so how do we hone that to ensure that the Church has sufficient money to pay its bills as well as enough for outreach?” she quizzed.

For Malabre, outside of bake sales and fish fries, entrepreneurship is a way to earn sustainable income. She suggested that where the Church can obtain land, it should develop properties for either private or commercial use (parking lots, plazas, etc) where rental income can be generated, restaurants, Christian cafés, wellness centres that care for the holistic person are all options that can be explored.

“The Church engaging in entrepreneurship is not a farfetched concept. People look at the life of Jesus and they see the miracles and the lives He touched, but remember He was also a carpenter. Look also at the Apostle Paul. He did an awesome job spreading the gospel in his time, but he was also a tent maker (Acts 18:3). So this is evidence that engaging in entrepreneurial activities does not have to be at the expense of ministry,” said Malibre.

Enhancing ministry

For those who think pursuing money is shifting focus from ministry, Malabre said that it would only enhance it. She said that it would put the Church in a better position financially to help members who may be struggling to make ends meet by either helping them find jobs from these entrepreneurial ventures or giving financial aid.

Malabre shared that it would also bridge the shortfall in funding for outreach projects.

“Cash is not the only thing needed to show that you care, but it is a practical way to meet the needs of the persons we are mandated to take care of (orphans, widows, the poor). Having sufficient funds to share could mean the difference between whether a single mother will have dinner for her children that evening or be able to send them to school. That means the Church has to be savvy about the way it generates, invests, and uses its money,” she said.

Malabre also believes that when the Church is involved in entrepreneurship, it benefits not only its members, but the wider community.

For her, when the shift in mindset happens at the leadership level, the capacity to expand and earn will fulfil the ministry’s call to help the needy.

“This shift, if done in a strategic way, through training initiatives, from entrepreneurs in the Church or partnerships with organisations like Jamaica Business Development Corporation, members and the wider community can get the impetus to start businesses of their own,” she shared, adding that it would also give the ministry greater access to the people they are trying to reach as some of those persons may never set foot in church, but they may set foot in a restaurant or a café run by a church.

Malabre said that the Church could start encouraginging entrepreneurship by teaching people money management from a biblical perspective. For example, look at the parable of the talents, which teaches us to use even the little we have instead of burying it.

“The Church could also ensure that strategic partnerships are formed with entities that can help interested members get educated and trained to launch their businesses. Also, invite persons in to teach the members the art of investing and putting aside, even from the little they have.”