Measuring the Project
One of the mantras of assisting persons in need is, help without hurting. This is a lot more involved than the simple three-word statement might seem at first, but it is a valuable road sign on the way. As a missionary I experienced the negative side of this a number of times. Let me give you one story that will illustrate what I’m talking about.
In our early years of missions, we ministered in Africa. As I saw our pastors struggle to get to meetings, sometimes walking as far as twenty miles, I thought it a great idea to put together a project of purchasing each of them a bicycle. It made sense: simple transportation, low maintenance, no gas necessary. The campaign was successful, and every pastor was given a bicycle.
About three weeks after giving the bikes to the pastors, I saw one of our leaders, Ako, who lived at one of the furthest preaching points, pushing his bike up the hill to the mission station. He had a flat tire. After we greeted each other, he said, “Biskeli yangu imeharibika. Nimeikuletea kuitengeneza.” (My bicycle is broken. I’ve brought it back to you to fix.) Humm? As we talked, it became evident to me that the bike was a burden for Ako and for many of the other pastors. It had been of help to him, but he had no funds to make any repairs. He considered it to be my responsibility because I had given it to him as a tool for evangelism. We all have stories like this one, but perhaps this one will assist us to think about how we attempt to help others. How do you know when you’re helping without hurting?
Global Missions has been working on a project assessment grid for a number of months. When this grid is put into place, we believe it will help us measure each of our projects around the globe, and we believe it will enable us to help those we support without hurting them. It will also help us, in working with the project managers, to improve the quality of the projects. It will help us to discover the strengths and weaknesses of the projects, to make them more effective, and to establish markers along the way.
The grid is based on eight values that we have identified as desired measures. The first five come from the widely accepted book Giving Wisely, by Jonathan Martin. Martin, forming the acronym RAISE.
- R—Relationship first. Is there a strong relationship between the donor and the receiver?
- A—Accountability. Is the information that we are given reliable and verifiable?
- I—Indigenous. Is the project under the direction of local leadership? Do they have ownership in the project? Did the idea come from local leadership?
- S—Sustainability. Does this project lead to dependency, or is it self-sustaining, self-propagating, and self-governing? Will the project continue after financial help from the outside ends.
- E—Equity. Does the project separate the recipients from their community?
We are adding three other measures to these primary five. They are
Time Line: Does the project have a beginning, middle and an end?
Investment for the Future: In additional to sustainability, does the project create a positive future for those it is ministering to?
Unity to the Church Body: Does this project unite or divide the body of Christ?
We realize that every project may not meet all of the above requirements, but we should be striving to work toward all of them. We believe this grid is going to help us look to the future and fund projects that are healthy and of real assistance to the global church.
If I were to have placed the bicycle example through this grid, it would have looked something like this.
- Relationship: High. We had very close relations.
- Accountable: Low. Once I gave the bike, I considered it was their responsibility, but the pastors didn’t see it that way.
- Indigenous: Low. It was my idea from the start.
- Sustainable: Low. By my standards, it was high, but by theirs, it was out of reach.
- Equitable: High. It was low tech and didn’t separate the pastor from his flock.
- Time: Low. For me, it ended with the gift; for them, it had just begun.
- Future: High. It had great potential to assist the pastors in their ministry.
- Unity: Low. As it turned out, the bikes created jealousy between those who could maintain the bike and those who could not.
Bob Edwards is the director of the Global Ministry Group for Church of God Ministries.