The value of faith-based organisations
“Local faith groups and churches are capable of delivering long-term change, but they sometimes need a helping hand, as well as more resources.”
A common narrative is that our society is becoming less religious. Fewer people attend religious meetings, for example, and in the UK specifically, fewer identify themselves as practising Christians. However, this only tells part of the story. Although some faiths may be witnessing a decline, others are experiencing growth. Tellingly, a May 2020 survey found its way on to the pages of The Guardian newspaper that showed a resurgence of faith during COVID-19 lockdown.
Our society is increasingly pluralistic, multicultural and multi-faith, so the narrative of a less religious environment is too simplistic. It is naïve to think that faith has no place: religion and faith perspectives influence the way people see themselves, each other, and the world around them. This is not only true of other countries known for their culture of faith but also within many of our own diverse communities, where religion often figures largely in everyday life.
For my purpose I define a ‘faith-based organisation’ as a group that embodies some form of religious belief (or cultural values arising from a religious belief) in its vision or mission, founding history or project content. For some, everything they do comes from their faith; heavily influencing their mission, activities and operations. For others, faith is just one dimension; it may be stated in the group’s mission but the influence on its activities and operations is not so central.
Churches, as an example, are part of the faith community but also part of the human community. According to independent research (‘What A Difference A Faith Makes: Insights on Faith-based Charities’, Rachel Wharton and Lucy de Las Casas, November 2016. New Philanthropy Capital), “Faith is deeply embedded in the UK charity sector. More than a quarter of charities in Great Britain have an association with faith and nearly two thirds of the world’s people align themselves to the Christian tradition. In some areas of work, like overseas aid and human rights, faith-based charities make up almost half of the charities focusing on a particular issue.”
The history of how the church, global and local, has shaped the world is undeniable. The same NPC study concluded that faith-based agencies are deeply embedded in the UK sector, with more than a quarter of charities in Great Britain having an association with faith and nearly two thirds of people across the world aligning themselves to the Christian tradition and, therefore, they “have huge potential to create impact for their beneficiaries and for society as a whole”.
We know that Churches and other faith agencies have a unique role in our communities. They are often locally established and have a long-term connection and permanence with neighbourhoods. At least they all have that potential. Even though many are resilient, they all face unique challenges and are often poorly understood. They are sometimes not easy to work with due to traditions, governance structures, unhelpful leadership patterns with a lack of accountability and poor practices. Its leaders and members are not without fault, making the work with faith-based organisations and churches a delicate task, given their complex culture with inadequate systems and often untrained staff. Crucially, there may be no identifiable plans or goals for the future direction and sustainability of the organisation.
Local faith groups and churches are capable of delivering long-term change, but they sometimes need a helping hand, as well as their invariable request for more resources. They often know, understand and help their local communities, but often lack the training, support and self-supporting finances they need to do so effectively. Churches and faith agencies should not dismiss or be suspicious of some of the helpful, well-tried tools available, such as capacity development assistance for strategic planning, resource acquisition, organisational assistance and leadership support. (See my other blog on ‘Capacity Development: what it means and how to make if effective’).
A skilled, experienced, sensitive and empathetic consultant could offer a combination of training, development and advisory support in a safe environment that would add value by assisting the church/faith organisation to ensure it has:
- Leaders who are supported through organisational change
- A reappraisal of, and re commitment to, the vision, values and objectives
- A clear sense of purpose, priorities and perspectives for all involved
- A release of individual and corporate potential with increased motivation
- The ability to respond innovatively corporately and individually
- Appropriate and relevant activities in line with agreed strategy
- Practical and tangible assistance with events, project management and fundraising
- Success in terms of the organisation’s resilience, impact, self-sufficiency and sustainability.
We are living in unsettled times and the faith community needs to understand, and be confident in, the significant role it has as a strategic change agent within society. And be sure of that for generations to come.
If you would like to speak to Maurice about capacity development in a faith-based setting, please email info@actionplanning
Maurice Adams is a not-for-profit and faith-based agency leadership advisor who has been a CEO, Vice President and Programmes Director for a broad range of UK and global agencies, with more than 30 years of experience in different sectors, roles and countries. Maurice has successfully directed and supported multi-national and multi-functioning teams by innovative thinking, skilled communications and leadership support.