• Reflecting on Micah's training modules and change in the church

    Posted by Micah Challenge

    8 April, 2013

    Kylie Dundas writes this blog upon reflection of her participating in our online Training Modules over the past couple of months. She reflects on what she has learnt in the training, as well as sharing her experiences of social change within her church.

    I have recently been undertaking the Micah Challenge Training modules on how to create social change. Whilst it always initially seems too difficult to squeeze in another activity into my already overflowing schedule, I’ve found these modules to be helpful and interesting. It’s helped me reflect upon my own personal journey of advocating and demonstrating love to the poor and needy of this world. The training has also led me to more critically reflect upon my leadership of a social justice group within my local church.

    6 years ago my local church had no social justice ministry, we were pretty inward focused, and not feeling very empowered (or even motivated) to change anything. In 2009 a Catalyst group formed (a Baptist World Aid Australia program) by a small group of 5 people who wanted to see a more just world, but didn’t really know where to start.

    We began our ‘raising awareness’ phase by educating ourselves using the resources at Catalyst and Micah Challenge websites. Both these sites have been invaluable for finding facts and telling us stories – making it real for us. We then sought to educate our church family, using facts and stories from the websites along with a bit of role play!

    Maintaining the momentum and numbers within the group has been a struggle, there seems to be ‘seasons’ to our momentum – sometimes we are firing and other times we have had long winters of hibernation! We definitely feel flat when we don’t feel supported by our pastors /church leaders and don’t see change (as quickly as we would like) amongst our church family. Upon reflection the group also seems less active when my own spiritual life is not burning as passionately as it should be. To be honest, this used to really frustrate me; I would be thinking ‘why do I need to carry the group?’ However I am now reconciled with the fact that a leader does influence a group in many ways and this was one of them for me! (Besides it’s another motivator to stay walking close to my God). Last year our numbers dropped to a level where I was questioning if we could be functional. So we committed to pray at our monthly meetings– rather than plan any action. Personally I also spent some time reading the Minor Prophets and the “angry psalms”. These passages reminded me that I was not alone in my thoughts -the prophets, psalmists and ultimately God are also frustrated with the injustice and inequality in our world.

    I think initially most people in the church family probably did think that engaging in social justice was an ‘optional extra’ for Christians, rather than a typical attribute of someone who claims to follow Christ. Thankfully I have always had the support of our pastors and church leadership team, although at times it can seem like this is more in principle rather than practice. This is something that the senior pastor and I were able to work through together last year.  In hindsight (now that I’ve started the training)  I realise that in essence I was asking for some “celebrity endorsements” from him, asking  him  to talk about it more often, rather than the congregation only ever hearing about social justice stuff from those ‘crazy catalyst team members’.

    We have also benefited from the Worship Coordinator being a member of the group so we have been able to utilise our regular worship service as a vehicle for sharing facts, telling stories, signing petitions etc. to the congregation (our key targets) - championing that worship is more than just singing, it’s about living and acting with justice, mercy and humility.

    The training has helped me realise that to be a sustainable movement we need to maintain the story telling – staying on the radar of peoples thoughts. We have discovered that many within the church family have a heart for helping but don’t know what they can do, or perhaps get overwhelmed with the enormity of the problems and so respond by choosing to do nothing. We are learning that to achieve change in people we need to (help them) identify solutions, or actions to take (e.g. choose fair trade products, participate in postcard petition campaigns, write letters to CEO’s, make a  charitable donation as a gift etc.) rather than dwelling entirely  on the problem.

    This year we have been blessed with renewed enthusiasm, and some new members (YAY!). Have we achieved change? It’s hard to measure a change in people’s hearts towards the poor and suffering! There is action now (compared to 5 years ago), petitions signed, meetings with our MP, events of community engagement so that’s a change. However it definitely feels like the rhythm we move to is one step forward two steps back!  The obstacles as I see them are maintaining momentum or presence in people’s minds and also people can be naturally resistant to change – this is where celebrity endorsements and good marketing and advertising come in I guess – I am still trying to figure out the equivalents in a church setting!

    Overall the training and participating in the forums has been a real encouragement to me. Looking at the theory of social change has helped me reflect and be able to name the things that have worked, and those that didn’t. I found the forums an encouraging place to ‘virtually’ be – It’s always nice to know there are other people out there who think similarly to me, that I’m not alone. Also, participating in the forums has helped shape my own ideas further, and helped challenge me to not become complacent but to personally keep trying to live and act the change that I want see (Gods Kingdom on earth).   A few months ago I was contemplating giving up, now I feel more motivated and equipped (and even happy) to try and lead change.

    Kylie has been a Micah Challenge supporter for a number of years and has been an active member of her church where she has seen the importance of using her voice to influence others. She is keen to continue advocating as part of our Finish the Race campaign.

    If you would like to participate in our Online Training Modules, please go to www.micahchallengetraining.org.au