In contrast to merely giving to or doing for people in poverty (as if they have no gifts, talents, or voices of their own to contribute), engaging in ministry with, alongside, and in concert with leadership from the margins (instead of from the center) includes a number of distinguishing features, such as:
- Mutual, Transformational Relationships
The foundational principle of Ministry With* is the practice of building authentic, mutual, open, caring, sustained and transformational relationships among people of different economic, cultural, and class situations. In contrast to purely donor-recipient transactions, authentic Ministry With* involves becoming conscious of and setting aside one’s own social location, attitudes and cultural assumptions, and—like Jesus—being humble, vulnerable, open, courageous, and willing to listen, learn, and build trust and deeper relationships.
- Crossing Boundaries as a Spiritual Discipline
Multi-class, multi-cultural worship, prayer, bible reading, breaking bread, open-mic nights, poetry slams, singing and dancing, and other inclusive spiritual and social encounters that embrace and celebrate diversity and create safe and welcoming space to cross boundaries, transcend the literal and figurative walls that separate us, and build mutually transformational relationships.
Short-hand expression for being with, being present with (rather than doing for), being in solidarity with, walking with and alongside people struggling with conditions of and systems that perpetuate poverty. Assumes humility, openness and courage; a willingness to listen, learn, and build trust and deeper relationships.
- Asset-Based Leadership From the Margins, Not the Center
Respects and values the skills, knowledge and leadership potential of those living on the margins, rather than imposing leadership from the center to the margins and imposing donor/developer/lender-driven solutions. Begins with seeking out and embracing the assets, gifts, talents, graces, and hopes of communities and people impacted by poverty, rather than with a “needs assessment” by people (volunteers, donors, developers, government agencies, etc.) from outside the community.
- Long-Term Sustainable Impact
To build and maintain relationships that nurture and respect local leadership and avoid creating dependencies requires more than short term interventions and relief; long-term commitment of partners in relationship with leaders of local communities is needed to bring about sustainable changes in systems and structures.