By: Willow Welter   |   Posted: June 20, 2023

Learn how our church partners around the world are innovating ways to tap into local resources, maximize supporters’ gifts and bless the greatest number of children possible.

3 Ways You Empower Communities to Support Themselves

Learn how our church partners around the world are innovating ways to tap into local resources, maximize supporters’ gifts and bless the greatest number of children possible.

Written by Willow Welter
Photography by Daniela Velasco and Compassion El Salvador
Illustrations by Ben Lew and Tyler Shelton
a girl squats in a chicken yard and holds 2 eggs

Food had grown scarce in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

The traditional farming practices that help sustain their rural communities were being lost as young people pursued non-farming careers in bigger cities. When many of them returned during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they found their hometowns facing even more food shortages than before, as farms and markets had shut down.

Compassion Mexico started to look for ways to empower the local churches who minister to children in Compassion’s program to find sustainable resources. Using a principle known as local resource mobilization, they worked with churches and communities to identify available resources that could help them solve their food insecurity.

From Global to Local

Our church partners receive most of their child ministry resources from Compassion — an external, international source. But by tapping into local resources instead, churches can transition from relying on Compassion to becoming self-sustaining. It’s a way to empower the churches, maximize the gifts of sponsors and donors, and bless the greatest number of children possible.

Mobilizing local resources also protects the church from unexpected loss of resources if Compassion has to stop work in their region for any reason.

To empower local churches to be more self-sustaining, we help them mobilize local resources using three steps:

3 steps to empower local churches

Finding Expertise and Resources

So what does this principle look like in practice? In the case of Chiapas, Compassion Mexico began meeting with trusted experts: leaders of the churches that partner with us to implement our child development program.

Compassion staff began Bible studies with the church leaders. One study especially resonated with many pastors: the story of Joseph. He prepared the people of Egypt through seven years of plenty. As the Egyptians faced food shortages during seven years of famine, they had already made a food security plan. Pastors saw parallels with their own food crisis and felt empowered to do something for the families in their communities.

As Compassion and the churches moved toward the next stage in the plan, they found even more experts in their towns. The next stage involved churches identifying and celebrating the resources that they have, and analyzing how they could use them to improve their lives. The pastors identified three resources:

  • empty plots of land;
  • people with relevant expertise;
  • the energy and willingness of young people.

Mobilizing Resources

After identifying untapped resources and experts, churches working toward more sustainability begin inspiring a movement. In Chiapas, the church leaders began consulting grandmothers who were experts in caring for their animals and crops. They were able to share their years of experience to help revive the empty plots of land. Young people who had lost touch with farming were reinvigorated and started sowing their first radishes.

As the project continued, the young people who were getting involved found more and more resources and identified ways to make a difference in their communities. One young man started selling onions he had grown and was able to use the money to help others. Another group of mothers started a nursery where they grew vegetables for children who were malnourished. They were able to sell some of their produce to buy eggs, meat, and milk for the children.

benefits of local churches building local resources

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

— Acts 2:44-47, NIV

Ideas That Prosper

Mobilizing local resources looks different in every community where Compassion partners with churches and sponsors to release children from poverty. In El Salvador, our national office worked with churches to start a program for youths called Ideas That Prosper. Savings groups, or youth banks, were created for young people who wanted to start their own businesses.

The young entrepreneurs took financial training and learned how to run their own companies. With the help of the savings groups, they were able to start businesses and begin earning money. After taking the entrepreneurship training in El Salvador, twin sisters Esmeralda and Rosibel (pictured above) started a thriving greenhouse. It allows them to provide food to their community while earning money to support their bright futures.

Dignity and Ownership

To have many community members contributing to the ministry of the church creates dignity and erases the mentality of being needy or only on the receiving end.

stages of churches moving toward local support

By giving their time, energy and resources, members of the church and community develop greater ownership of the activities that contribute to the development of children and make their community a better place. This ensures their long-term sustainability so they can in turn empower more children and young people in their ministry.

Pray for Mobilization

a mother and daughter stand outside their home

Keep churches in your prayers as they empower their own communities.

a mother and daughter stand outside their home