As a spiritual leader in your faith community, you desire to develop disciples who are passionately engaged with the God-given mission to care for the impoverished. Yet, it can be difficult to know where to begin when addressing the needs of those around the globe living in extreme poverty.
We’re here to encourage and strengthen your efforts in guiding your church in this mission. These highlights from Barna’s latest study, The Good News About Global Poverty: What Americans Believe About the World’s Poor — and What Churches Can Do to Help will provide you with some simple ideas to put into action and help increase your church’s impact on global poverty.
Embrace Your Influence
There is one source above all others that Christians trust regarding information on global poverty. It’s not the media, it’s not those who work in poverty alleviation, and it’s not their family or friends. When it comes to who the faithful are looking to to help them understand and take action regarding the plight of the impoverished, they look no further than the spiritual leader in their lives.
The Barna graph below reveals the breakdown (from highest to lowest) of who practicing Christians value as trusted sources on the topic of global poverty.
Almost all practicing Christians (94 percent) probably or definitely value their own pastors’ thoughts about global poverty. Christians are not alone in their trust. Among all U.S. adults (88 percent) Barna polled, Christian or otherwise, pastors are still the most trusted source, tied only with those who have worked or lived in a poverty environment.
But while the public may put their trust in pastors, pastors themselves are uncertain regarding the strength of their voice on the topic. Out of the pastors who participated in the study, a majority (58 percent) believe they have minor to no influence on the cause of global poverty.
It’s clear that people are seeking leadership, knowledge and action from the Church. How can you use the platform and influence you have regarding the cause of global poverty with those in your community?
Put Your Influence Into Action
Here are a few starting suggestions on what you can do to embrace your influence.
- Begin to see the topic of caring for those affected by extreme poverty as an important aspect of your sermons, rather than a “side issue” relegated only to other departments, special services or announcements.
- Perhaps your whole church, small group or book club could devote time to a reading list — including novels or memoirs that expose people to other cultures, as well as faith-based guides — centered on accounts of global poverty or generosity.
Give the People What They Seek
Now that you know you have the platform to educate and inspire action, what next? The foundation of poverty engagement — before anybody ever donates a dollar, signs up as a volunteer, or boards a plane — begins with awareness. On an issue as complex, widespread and urgent as poverty, levels and types of engagement are inevitably linked to the quality of the information people receive.
As the graph above demonstrates, when actively seeking information on poverty, U.S. adults start with looking for basic information (71 percent). More than half (53 percent) want to know ideas for implementation, and 46 percent are looking for success stories from the field.
We recently shared, in the blog post “What People Don’t Know About Poverty (Yet),” that those who care the deepest about the plight of people living in extreme poverty have a substantial lack of knowledge regarding the topic.
Put Information Into Action
Here are a few options to help people find the information they are seeking:
- Poll your community on what global poverty causes they would like to be engaged with.
- Create a simple handout of global poverty facts regarding those topics.
- Share stats, articles or stories about global poverty through social media accounts.
Choose an Approach
After you’ve discovered the specific causes in which your church desires to engage, it’s time to choose how you can foster that desire. According to Barna’s research, the top three priorities for personal involvement in specific causes are clean water, child trafficking and children living in extreme poverty.
Many organizations address these complex areas of need and can come alongside you to equip you to lead your congregants. But choosing an effective and trustworthy organization is important. Therefore, we recommend taking some time to research before you begin a partnership. Look for organizations that empower nationals to help their own countrymen rather than providing handouts or importing goods and services.
In addition to finding a ministry partner, consider seeking cross-cultural opportunities to expose families to the realities of global poverty. This could include providing opportunities to travel and serve those in need through missions and educational experiences. For an educational experience closer to home, our Step Into My Shoes church curriculum provides an immersive, interactive journey alongside families living in extreme poverty.
For tactical missions opportunities that attack extreme poverty at the local level through local churches, learn more about how your church can partner with Compassion.
Publicize Your Efforts.
One barrier people identify as keeping them from serving the poor is a simple lack of information. They don’t know what to do or where to start. Don’t shy away from making the opportunities you’ve chosen to serve known to people.
Put Publicity Into Action
Here are a few places you might get the word out:
- Put it on your website and social media channels.
- Talk about it during announcements.
- Have booths or sign-up sheets available in your foyer.
- Enlist small group leaders to register their groups.
Make It Personal
The main reasons people say they have gotten involved in a cause in the past are primarily emotional: They believed they could make a difference (62 percent) or they saw or heard a moving story (45 percent). More than a third of adults remember being driven by an overwhelming sense of purpose (38 percent) or a relationship with someone who was already involved in the cause (34 percent).
The more people are able to feel personally connected to the work you are doing, the more apt they are to stay engaged.
Hope is a powerful motivator in the poverty fight. Optimism about ending poverty and about one’s role in that effort is connected to engagement. When people believe what they are doing is actually making a difference, they are encouraged and maintain interest. Make time to cheer for the good work your church is doing and for the tangible effects you are having.
The majority of people polled by Barna — an astonishing 70 percent — believe that there are more people living in extreme poverty than ever before when the exact opposite is true.
Global poverty has been reduced by 24 percent since 1990. This is cause for HOPE that the work of engaged individuals, churches, organizations and governments are truly changing our world for the better.
Put Personal Connections and Hope Into Action
- Tell stories of the people you are working with.
- Make progress reports part of your long-term strategy to share how your efforts and dollars are making a difference.
- Let people from your community share their own experiences in serving those in poverty.
- Consider choosing one cause and/or ministry a month or week to highlight from your platform.
- Share videos with your community telling the stories of those who have been released from poverty.
Look for the Helpers
Barna found that people who deeply care about and are engaged with domestic poverty are also the ones who express concern about global poverty. Those who donate to missions are more likely to also donate to global poverty. People have room in their hearts (and often in their wallets!) to care about more than one or two issues.
Those in your church community who you could approach to help champion this cause with you are likely to already be highly engaged in other areas. You’ll find them praying for others, volunteering, providing food for needy families, helping their neighbors, and donating items.
As Roxanne Stone, editor in chief for Barna Group, states,
“Local churches are already doing many things right in discipling Christians toward compassion for the poor. But there is more to do: Fighting poverty both material and spiritual — will always be the mission of the Church.”
Barna’s data points indicate that eradicating extreme poverty IS just “around the corner.” But there are still 385 million children suffering from emotional, spiritual, economic and physical poverty. We need to push through our feelings of compassion fatigue and continue to demonstrate Christ’s heart of compassion until we cross the finish line of eradicating extreme poverty.
Begin putting these ideas into practice TODAY to help your congregants follow Christ’s heart of compassion. We will be here for you every step of the way in your efforts!
Download the FREE executive overview of the research from The Good News About Global Poverty for more information about poverty AND practical actions that can be easily implemented today!
To dive deeper into the comprehensive research, purchase the full report of The Good News About Global Poverty: What Americans Believe About the World’s Poor — and What Churches Can Do to Help.