Did you know, Compassion partners with more than 8,000 churches around the world? Local churches are the backbone of Compassion’s ministry. We desire to equip the Church to fulfil its role as salt and light in the world, ultimately becoming catalysts for community change.
Compassion’s church partners around the world are amazing. They're there in areas of high need, actively caring for children. We partner with them exclusively because they love Jesus, know their local community, and have a heart for the people they serve.
But how do we choose churches to help our mission to release children from poverty in the name of Christ Jesus?
The answer to that question often takes a little explaining. So here goes!
Criteria 1: Finding the right church in areas of high need
There are many stages in developing a partnership with the local church, and it can take up to two years for a church-based child development project to open. A part of the first stage is finding the right churches in areas of great need, where Compassion’s approach to holistic child development will make the greatest difference.
Compassion offices in each country identify and prioritise potential partnerships based on a carefully developed strategy to ensure Compassion serves communities where the need is greatest. We do take recommendations by national Christian leaders, but while it’s welcomed, final approval rests with our national directors.
A church with a heart for children living in extreme poverty
In 2016, Pastor Danilo visited a neighbourhood outside of Chiclayo, Peru. From that moment, he felt called to help the many children living in the community.
“The first time I set foot in [this community] was a memorable moment for me. I saw the great need and struggles of its population,” says Pastor Danilo. “That day, while I was going back home, I couldn’t help but to pour out my tears, feeling powerless. Each one of their faces was in my mind. From that moment, God put a burning desire in my heart to do something for those children.”
Today, there’s a thriving church in that community. And with Compassion’s partnership assists more than 140 children every week, giving them a healthy diet, medical check-ups, a spiritual education, and love.
Criteria 2: Is the Church already serving children in the area?
When we start looking for a local church that can eventually become our frontline church partner, we search for evidence the church already has an active commitment to minister to children and youth.
“Our desire is for the church partners to be the salt and light, and to care about all aspects of a child’s life,” says Donald, Senior Manager of the Compassion Expansion Team in Indonesia.
This doesn’t only mean looking at how the church serves the children in its congregation, but how they look out for other children and their families in the area, irrespective of their religious beliefs, race, or gender.
Our faith is the motivator for everything, but we take great care to ensure we don’t discriminate in the help we give.
How commitment to children and youth is making a difference
For one Compassion child development project in Sri Lanka, this commitment to serve children and youth is bearing fruit in unexpected ways.
Despite their own need, Compassion supported twins, 14-year-old Arun and Ajey, serve others.
With help from our local partner, they’ve started a youth club and raised funds to feed vulnerable families in the community. “We were blessed to receive rations every month from the project, and that was how our families had food. When we heard of other families in our area who were struggling to get food, we felt sad and wanted to help,” says Arun.
“We have grown up in this [Compassion] project. Everything that we have learned about what is good and bad and how to live, is because of this project,” adds Ajey.
Criteria 3: What about the local church’s heart for Jesus?
Compassion is a Christian organisation. It started back in 1952 when Pastor Everett Swanson heard God’s challenge to do something to help after seeing homeless children die on a war-torn Korean street.
What we do, the children we serve is done out of our love for Jesus Christ and to heed his command to love our neighbours. As such, we seek to work with Christian churches that also reflect that love for Jesus and align with our faith values.
The next phase: Empowering the local church
Once all the top three criteria are met, Compassion begins to work with the church to understand its vision and aspiration and help turn it into reality.
Compassion has created a series of training materials called Qavah (Hebrew for “binding together”) to empower communities and families to solve challenges using resources at their disposal. Our role at this stage is to empower the local church to become a collaborator and catalyst for positive change.
Relationships are built and strengthened between the church and its community. It also involves healthy participation from members of the community.
A lot of time is spent understanding and equipping the local church at this stage as their vision, commitment, and capacity will determine its effectiveness for children and their families.
Commitment to child protection is crucial
Compassion will cease working with the local church if they cannot demonstrate a firm commitment to child protection.
Churches must show an alignment with child protection policies, including a willingness to actively protect children from harm; to intervene if harm is occurring; to report allegations of abuse; and to see children restored from harm through appropriate support services. When a church starts partnering with Compassion, they undertake thorough training in child protection. Then, as they continue, there are also annual refresher courses.
In one Ugandan community, this commitment to child protection has had a profound positive impact for girls and young women.
Child protection in Uganda
When the local frontline church partner found that sexual abuse of girls by local motorcycle taxi (boda boda) drivers was alarmingly high, they acted. By providing child protection training for Compassion children, caregivers and the boda boda drivers, the Compassion child development project started to reverse this trend.
Drivers are now trained quarterly by the staff at that project with the assistance of police officers and the local child probation officer. As the police are involved, the training is mandatory, and boda boda drivers attend in large numbers.
The fact that the leader of the local boda boda organisation has become a great child safety advocate has contributed to the reduction in the number of child abuse cases.
Final approval by the national director
This is the final stage before an incredible local church becomes a Compassion frontline church partner. And once the partnership agreement is signed, it can take up to 24 weeks for a Compassion child development project to open its doors and begin registering children. But as Compassion’s Expansion Team in Indonesia reminds us, we trust this is God’s work. Not our own.
From left to right: Donald, Hezron, Sheena, Sisari, Gringnard from Compassion Indonesia’s Expansion Team
“Sometimes, we’re exhausted. Sometimes we’re tired. Everything that Compassion plans and does is not for Compassion, it’s for the glory of God. We know what we plan. We know what we have done so far. It’s not because of us, but because God is there, and we’re just tools in God’s project,” says Grignard, Partnership Preparation Specialist.
At the end of the day, the team, like so many others around the world, is motivated and inspired by the knowledge they are doing Kingdom work. “My hope is that the children grow up feeling that the church can be at the centre of their growth into young men and women,” says Sisari, Partnership Preparation Specialist.
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