A monthly update from Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission, on the impact of Presbyterian mission in the world and the issues that affect mission co-workers, the people we walk with and assist in service to God, and our partners around the globe.
Measuring Impact: A Look at Presbyterian High-Impact Projects
Last month, we looked at the characteristics of some of our highest performing mission networks—groups of Presbyterians and global church partners who organize themselves to improve the work they do in a particular country—and what makes them work so well. This month, let’s look at how high-impact projects are providing a way Presbyterians can make a measurable impact on the quality of life of communities around the world—and accomplish together what no single congregation could by itself.
What do we mean by high-impact projects? For Presbyterians, a high-impact project intentionally channels the commitments, resources, ideas and hopes of a diverse group of individuals, congregations and presbyteries into a series of planned activities designed to measurably reduce poverty or violence or strengthen the church’s outreach. What are some examples?
- U.S. Presbyterians from 18 congregations and three presbyteries, Sudanese Presbyterians in Jonglei and Upper Nile states in South Sudan and five PC(USA) mission co-workers are collaborating to help 40 communities in South Sudan improve the quality of education for 70,000 children. None of the participating groups—Sudanese or American—could accomplish the project goals by itself. Working in partnership with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, and long-time mission partners ACROSS and RECONCILE, the project is built on the solid, contextually-appropriate strategy of teacher training (supported by mission co-worker, Leisa Wagstaff) and has measurable outcomes and clear, quarterly reports provided by our mission co-worker, Nancy Smith-Mather. A 2014 reconnaissance trip led by PC(USA) regional liaison Michael Weller and World Mission’s Africa coordinator Debbie Braaksma sparked a generous challenge grant from Westminster Presbyterian Church (Minneapolis). That gift has drawn other congregations into the growing circle of participation in the South Sudan Education and Peacebuilding Project.
- Iraqi Presbyterians live and witness in a context of anxiety and fear, yet they understood innately that, without continuing in mission and service to their surrounding community, they would become irrelevant and cease to be the church of Jesus Christ. They served the community of Kirkuk, Iraq, through a kindergarten that provided high-quality education for the community’s children, with most of the children coming from Muslim families. The church saw the need to increase the scope of the school in a sustainable way and they proposed to grow it by adding a grade each year. When local authorities, fearing the expansion of a Christian institution, refused the request, the Iraqi Presbyterians were surprised and encouraged when the families of the Muslim students banded together and told the local authorities that this was their school and the authorities should approve the expansion request. Today a growing number of PC(USA) congregations are working together—in prayer, financial support and advocacy for peace in Iraq—in support of the growing school and the community they’re coming to know and love, with the support of mission co-worker, Elmarie Parker.
- In Egypt, the church that our missionaries founded more than 150 years ago, the Egyptian Evangelical Presbyterian Church currently oversees more than 66 new church developments in new cities throughout the country, as well as villages and remote areas. Since 2013, the government of Egypt has actually given land to our partner church for the building of 14 new churches and significantly eased the process to obtain building permits. This is unprecedented in the history of our church’s mission to Egypt! Church leaders see this as a God-given opportunity, an open window to establish many new churches where none exist. But the window may not be open for long. The Egypt Church Growth project has brought together PC(USA) congregations and individuals to help grow the church in a context where, up to recently, such a dream hardly seemed possible. The excellent work of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo complements this work by providing a growing number of trained ministers to lead the new congregations. In addition to the teaching of PC(USA) mission co-workers at the seminary, our regional liaison, Steve Gorman, is working with the church and seminary to provide quarterly reports for the growing number of U.S. Presbyterians who are responding to this time of opportunity.
Thus, high-impact projects are opening a door for PC(USA) mission leaders to draw their congregations into deeper global mission involvement. But let me end this reflection with a word of caution. The Kingdom of God is more than “high-impact,” project “inputs,” and measurable results. God’s realm is primarily about relationships—both individual human relationships and larger, structural relationships across our globe, both of which, in a fallen world, are characterized by sin, greed and injustice. People are abused in individual relationships and by global structures of oppression. Yet Christ’s mission announces and embodies the good news that relationships are made right in Jesus Christ.
Our “high-impact projects” are faithful if they lead us into deeper, more just relationships with our global partners—and they are unfaithful if they lead us into more paternalistic, controlling or self-serving relationships. Discerning mission leaders will use the power and allure of a high-impact project to draw their congregation into relationship with global partners…and then begin the hard work of developing a true community of mission practice where shared worship, Bible study and engagement in mission leads believers of different cultural backgrounds into the long, difficult, but blessed road of shared commitment in Christ’s mission. Contact World Mission’s Ellen Sherby (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out how to identify a project for your congregation—and how to grow your congregation’s mission commitment beyond a mere project!
Next month we’ll look at the impact of global campaigns to address critical issues that break God’s heart and ours.
Mission Matters Archives
October 2015 - Effective mission networks share seven core values
September 2015 - Faithfully Fighting Oppression
August 2015 - The Difference Was Like Night and Day
July 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World? Part III
June 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World? Part II
May 2015 - Mission Co-workers Need Your Prayers and Financial Support
April 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World?
March 2015 - The Church You Grew Up In No Longer Exists
Hunter,Thanks for this article, the world in which our CPC is need Co-workers who understand leadership as leading in the way of Jesus Christ;Tuasakidila bua lungenyi elu.Muoyo mu Kilisto
Thanks, Hunter, for these great points and for visiting the Cuba Partners network in New Orleans. We appreciated your presence.
It's exactly an optimal time to be assessing the factors and processes leading to effective, durable, and highly participative mission networks. The core values Hunter addresses are strong inroads toward effective networks. I would suggest that effective networks do not switch leaders every two years but rather sustain forward momentum through longer-term commitment and collaborative leadership. And the diversity I would advocate for is to include a diversity of methodological approaches to the mission at hand which is far more fundamental and necessary than the race or church size of those holding those approaches. I am encouraged by signs like this that PWM is scouting out the factors creating mission networks that truly take hold, gain traction, and move into significant collective action.
Great piece and great work, Hunter. Thank you for visiting both our partner and our mission co-workers.
Hunter, thanks for lifting up the work and concern of the Hungarian Reformed Church. Burkhardt is doing an excellent job as a bridge person helping the PCUSA to understand the politics around in Hungary around the refugee crisis. Thanks for this article.