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Sheltering In Place or Starving To Death?
6 Ways to Mobilize Your Congregation for Global Impact

By Darren DeGraaf, President, Partners International Canada.

In a season of declining budgets and financial crisis, why would congregations in Canada even think about the needs of the global church?

At Partners International Canada, we are discovering that the scale of the impact of Covid-19 globally is substantially greater than the strain we are facing in Canada:

  • From a ministry partner in India: “most of the families we are currently supporting have been eating rice only, with no protein, for almost a month. They are beginning to starve and are struggling to support their immune system. There is great need for nutrition.”
  • From The Daily Star of Bangladesh: “Guidelines on social distancing, washing of hands with soap, and staying at home are all very well for the privileged who can afford to do so. For the poor, 5-6 members cram in one-room dwellings, share irregular water supply and limited latrines in some of the dirtiest and densest places on earth. Such messaging must surely feel like a cruel joke.”

In the initial stages of Covid-19, many churches in Canada pivoted so effectively towards online weekend services with surprising success. Now that we are through that first phase, it is time to think about other ways in which we can be the church.

How will you engage and empower your people to be the church in the weeks to come? 

In the Great Commission, Jesus told us to go into all the world. Your congregation wants and needs to be a part of God’s work around the world. Our vision must extend beyond our congregation and community.

At Partners International, we are hearing from donors that they want their gifts to go towards ministry action that truly matters. When they feel powerless, the chance to be empowered to make a real difference will encourage, motivate and inspire your congregation.

When you connect your church with pastors and ministry leaders in the developing world through video technology, your congregation will be informed and inspired to resource and pray. Your church could be a real encouragement to ministry leaders who are giving their all to serve in challenging contexts. Lead your congregation by shifting your focus and priorities to serve and encourage the global church. It doesn’t cost a lot to make a grassroots difference in this crisis.

It’s time to be a both/and church – to continue to engage your congregation and community and to be global leaders by putting the needs of our most marginalized and vulnerable brothers and sisters around the world at the centre of your decision-making.

Galatians 6:10 says, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Let me suggest several ways your church can respond to the global Covid-19 Crisis:

1. Pray

In your pastoral prayers and your prayer updates to your congregation – add specific prayers for our brothers and sisters around the world.

Partners International and many other agencies publish monthly global prayer updates. Your denomination may do this as well. Use these prayer updates to challenge your congregation to pray for indigenous and cross-cultural Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are struggling to respond to the needs surrounding them.

2. Learn

Around the world, the response to the Covid-19 virus is felt most acutely by the poor, marginalized and vulnerable:

  • Day labourers who only make enough to feed themselves and their families for a day or two have now endured a month of lock-downs in many places in our world. They are hungry and scared.
  • People in dense slums and shantytowns lack access to food, sanitation products, clean water or even the physical capacity to self-isolate.
  • Medical resources in many parts of the world are meagre if they exist at all.
  • Crime is surging as people are growing more and more desperate for food and other necessities. Riots are expected.

Pastors and ministry leaders in the developing world are often in the same situation as their communities. We are hearing from many who are struggling with food security themselves even as they look to assist others.

3. Network

Who in your church’s network is already responding to these challenges? 

Almost all of our locally based leaders and missionaries are responding to the needs in their communities. They have arranged to feed the most vulnerable, provide health and sanitation products, and have even set up mobile medical clinics. They are caring for those who are ill.

Are those your church is partnering with around the world responding, in their communities to the impact of Covid-19?

Your church can have a tangible connection at a grassroots level to those who can make an immediate difference in communities where they live, work and minister. Your church may not need to look very far to discover people who are already hard at work, making a difference in the places God has placed them.

4. Determine your Resources 

In addition to making difficult decisions and adjusting church budgets, globally-minded church leaders must also ask: What resources will we direct towards a global response? 

Here are some ways your church can respond financially:

  • Pastors and church leaders need to talk to their boards and finance committees about stepping out in faith to redirect a narrowing income stream toward a global response.
  • A special offering, along with an informational video from a global worker during a weekend videocast can provide a way for your church to respond together.
  • Repurpose mission dollars for cancelled programs to support those in your network that have a response plan in place and need your financial assistance.
  • Provide good and intentional information to your congregation about agencies, ministries and organizations that your church already partners with or endorses where people can choose to give individually. Church leaders need to provide guidance and wisdom to those who want to give and make a difference at this time. Not all charities are the same.

5. Build Relationships and Develop Partnerships

In a time of crisis, the most urgent need is not for new organizations, the urgent need is for the efficient deployment of resources through on the ground partners already hard at work. By building on existing relationships, your church will be able to respond faster and better.

If you aren’t connected to ministries that can respond right now, consider joining with us. At Partners International, our local mission leaders have the experience and expertise to provide a gospel-centred response, not only ministering to people’s physical needs but also their spiritual needs.

6. Mobilize your Congregation to Action

  • Start with prayer for our brothers and sisters serving faithfully around the world.
  • Reach out to the agencies and people you already partner with and seek information about their implementation strategies.
  • Connect virtually with Christian brothers and sisters around the world. Partners International can connect you with courageous, skilled leaders that are already hard at work in their regions and communities.
  • Distribute reports from agencies or partners you are working with to inform and inspire your congregation to action.
  • Create a campaign to encourage our global brothers and sisters in Christ. Create an email encouragement plan and collect encouragement notes from your congregation for those pastors and leaders in the thick of it.
  • Determine your strategy for financially resourcing the global church.

Our Finest Hour.

It’s hard to be the church in times of peace and prosperity, but this global crisis has provided a chance for the church to step up and lead. The church was made for times like this.

International Partners who regularly face persecution are being invited by the very authorities that persecute them to step into the gap and serve their communities. Let’s move beyond our challenges and partner with them to care for a world that is watching!

In our context, our digital weekend services are reaching people in ways we could have never imagined a few months ago. Our churches are rushing to care adequately for our communities in new and creative ways. But the opportunity to engage our globe may be one of our most essential reactions as a church.

As this Covid-19 crisis continues, we have the chance to inspire our congregations to engage in prayer and to partner with leaders who are making a tangible difference right now around our world.

Can Partners International Canada help?

One of Partners International’s core values is Partnering is God’s Ideal. God calls us to work together, and we best achieve our mission through meaningful collaboration with local leaders serving God in our communities and around the world. The body of Christ only succeeds when we work together to achieve God’s purposes. When we partner with fellow believers who are already working in the most vulnerable communities, we are following God’s strategy. At Partners International, we have been doing this effectively for over 75 years.

We would love to partner with you and help to resource your church to take action. To discuss how your church can partner globally in this critical moment, contact darren.degraaf@partnersinternational.ca.


COVID-19 is still an ever-present reality in Canada and around the world and the church has an opportunity to rise up and do good. Partner with us today to make a global impact by effectively meeting the needs of communities desperate for hope during this COVID-19 pandemic.

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