Seven Principles for Holistic Ministry

Would you approach ministry with Honduran street kids differently than with chronically unemployed men from inner-city St. Louis? Naturally the language, culture, and tactics would differ… but are there certain principles that could be applied to any holistic ministry?

That was one of the challenges explored by leaders representing six ministries from three different countries during a recent Holistic Ministry Summit in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

“Our ministries are diverse, from business discipleship to technical schools to social businesses,” said Roberto P., EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Honduras. “But during our time together a set of principles emerged that apply to virtually any situation.”

Seven of these principles are:

1. A problem well-defined is a problem half-solved. Sometimes a task seems overwhelming because we have not sharply defined what it is we hope to achieve. Once we have a clear picture of success, we can begin to develop the right strategy to reach our goals.

2. Dream big, start small. “We need to learn to ‘fail cheaply’,” said Drew Smith, a volunteer/consultant for Opportunity International and Jubilee Community Church in Missouri. “Often this means quickly and cheaply testing out a concept before investing major time and resources. If the idea works, we can build it up into something huge. If it fails, we can learn from the experience and move on. Success is perfected through mistakes.”

3. Compassion lifts, pity oppresses. God has created each of us in His image, and each of us can help others understand this truth. Yet sometimes in our attempts to help others, we leave them feeling worthless. We may not extract a financial price, but we take their dignity. As Olvin Funez, who works in Honduras with Building a Future, said, “When you receive pity, it makes you feel angry. Compassion causes a different reaction — it makes you want to share this compassion with others.”

4. Don’t let grace become enabling. “In our technical school, we’ve found that while grace can restore, too much grace can crush,” said Brian Wiggs, who works with The Micah Project in Honduras. “If we let one of our students repeatedly flout our attendance or performance requirements, it lowers the standard for the entire program. It is only when we set high standards that these young men begin to see who God created them to be.”

5. The bus is coming: Be prepared. It’s inevitable — today’s leader will someday get hit by the proverbial bus and will no longer be leading the ministry. We need to be pouring our time into the next generation of leaders who can multiply our impact, regardless of whether or not we are personally involved. When indigenous leaders take on responsibility for a project, it gives the project value — and it gives those leaders value.

6. Resources exist: Find them. We need to let God, not finances, drive our vision. We should look for creative ways to bless others by inviting them to participate in our ministry. While cash donations from North American churches and individuals play a key role in many programs, additional sources may include:

  • local donations (for example, from Hondurans or Costa Ricans);
  • in-kind gifts (building materials, consulting services);
  • learn and earn (technical school that covers costs by selling automotive services to the community);
  • business as ministry (church-owned business that provides funds for ministry programs while providing jobs and an additional point of contact with the community);
  • creative partnerships (technical school borrowing the facilities of neighboring auto shop; auto shop receiving pipeline of well-trained mechanics);
  • a working capital fund (a cash donation that will be used for a specific need, repaid over time, and then used and repaid again as needs arise).

7. Transformation: Accept nothing less. People can give. Organizations can develop. But only the gospel has the power to transform.

If our ministries are not rooted in the gospel and connected with the local church, we are missing the mark. We must be focused on actions that will change a life not only for this day, not only for this year, but for eternity — that’s transformation.

“The Holistic Ministry Summit enabled me to experience these principles and a problem-solving discipline that can be applied in many settings — from academics to business to ministry,” said Ryan Petter, a business major at Anderson University who serves as an intern with ReachGlobal in Costa Rica. “Regardless of age, experience or role, we found that we each have something to learn from one another.”

Story by Dan J., ReachGlobal missionary in San José, Costa Rica.

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2 thoughts on “Seven Principles for Holistic Ministry”

  1. AMEN!

    Great list for Holistic Ministry. We follow some of the same in our Wholistic Community Development ministry through education and awareness.

    It all starts with the basics as Jesus did with the Disciples….Build the relationship, teach them, be the example, watch God transform their lives!

    Blessings to all of you!

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