When was the last time you read about a church-led community project in another part of your town, country or even the world and decided to copy it? It can be tempting to assume that if one church has successfully implemented a programme that it is an ‘easy win’ and you can simply copy it.
Trying to duplicate a project without fully understanding the groundwork required can end up with disappointing results. At worst, you may face legal issues that could be avoided if you had accessed specific experience in advance.
This is where replicating can provide you with the best opportunity of running a successful church-led community project. Unlike duplicating, replicating isn’t simply copying an idea – it is implementing an effective programme using the knowledge and skills of those who have already put such a project into practice. This not only saves you time but also increases the chances of your church-led community project being a success.
A few years ago, a frustrated acquaintance was discussing a new community project at his church. As they listened, they became increasingly concerned about the potential impact of this new initiative. This person is forward-looking who embraces new challenges – but he is also incredibly realistic.
The community project in question was to provide emergency food parcels to people in need. His church’s leaders had seen the success of another church doing this and had naturally thought that they could do the same. As it had helped to make a difference in one community, they quickly assumed it would work for them.
This may seem like a perfect idea, but cookie-cutter solutions often prove to be less than successful. Eventually, that was the case for my friend’s church.
The reason it lacked impact was simple: the church is situated in a community where food poverty was extremely rare.
Out of context, the food parcel social action project sounded like a great idea. But in its unique community, it was quite unlikely to work for a church in such a community.
Context is everything. For example, many churches run successful social action initiatives for the homeless, such as night shelters. These programmes are essential in many communities but in others, there is no demand for such a service.
Similarly, a ‘hampers for new mums’ outreach is in little demand in communities where the population tends to be older. There will be new mums, but the impact will be significantly reduced in such places as the targeted audience is largely unrepresented.
To help churches identify what initiatives are likely to offer the best fit in their communities, NAYBA has developed a Community Transformation Pathway. This approach helps churches discern what Jesus is calling them to do by asking five questions:
Question 1. Community: What are the greatest social needs and the best resources in your local community?
Question 2. Civic: What statutory provision is available and where is that the most under-resourced and strained?
Question 3. Commerce: What social responsibility priorities do local businesses have and where is there potential synergy?
Question 4. Church: What resources, assets and capabilities does your local church have that it can offer on a sustainable basis?
Question 5. Calling: What community need is Jesus calling your local church to do something about?
Once you have discerned the needs, gaps and opportunities of your unique community, it’s time to decide what you are going to do. It’s all too easy to start something new without stopping to look around to see if someone else has trodden the path before and developed a best practice approach. Resources are too valuable to waste by reinventing the wheel and duplicating a church-led community project that already exists.
NAYBA has developed unique ways to help church-led community projects replicate through other churches. There are also amazing menus of NAYBA Recognised Projects across countries, continents and the world, which you can choose from rather than starting from scratch.
You will dramatically increase your chances of success by replicating a tried-and-tested community project rather than duplicating it. They say that 80% of start-ups fail within three years but only 20% of tried-and-tested ventures.
Some people are, unfortunately, driven by the need to satisfy their ego and logo and needlessly duplicate rather than replicate, just so they can put their name and brand on it.
We all have unique abilities and are made to work together. This is something Paul explains in his letter to Romans. The Church is like a body, he explains, and we are all different parts of it with different tasks.
Impactful community projects should not be about ownership by individual churches, they are part of the Kingdom of God and, therefore, belong to the Church as a whole. Let’s give away our best practice for the benefit of the kingdom of God!
If you are a church with a project that could be replicated, don’t miss our new book Replicate. It provides all the tools and understanding you need. And if you are a church looking to replicate a project, the book gives you an insight into how replication works. Order your copy here.