In Part 1 of this series, I discussed why the church should play a leading role in the task of building a developed Nigeria. In Part 2 of the series, I addressed the first role and what I consider the main starting point – Prayer. In Part 3, we delved into the second role – Messaging. In Part 4, we looked at the third role – Training and in Part 5, we looked at the fourth role – Healthcare.
We focused now on the fifth role – Social Work – and in the coming weeks, we will address the remaining two – Advocacy and Mobilisation.
Why should the church play a leading role in Social Work?
No Government interest: The Federal, State and Local Governments have little or no social programmes for the people, particularly the vulnerable and less privileged. Yet, these groups form the majority of our population.
The need is urgent: If we agree that this category of citizens is in the majority in our nation, it would mean we have a huge and urgent need in our hands. Even if we had a serious government today, they can’t fund this urgent need alone nor does she have the manpower to address all the needs. Yet, the numbers are rising at an alarming rate each day.
The Church has resources: Her huge financial and human resources (members) and her enormous influence provide the church with the best tools to make immediate inroads in this sector. Her members can contribute not just finances but assets (land, buildings, equipment, building materials, etc) and they can also volunteer their time and expertise.
It is part of the Church’s key remit: One of the central themes of the Christian faith is to protect the worth and improve the opportunities of the most vulnerable, less privileged and socially disadvantaged. The Church knows this must be a core activity rather than a seasonal one (during Christmas and Easter, for example).
What areas of Social Work should the Church play a leading role in?
Rehabilitation Work: Beyond the occasional visits to prisons and some care homes, the Church is required to do much more by setting up rehabilitation centres for ex-prisoners, drug addicts, sex workers, child slaves, etc. These centres should be a place where people can be cleansed (in spirit, soul and body), trained, and released to go and give back into the nation, with a deep sense of their God-given worth.
These would go a long way to reduce the level of crime in our nation and create an environment where hope abounds as many get given a second chance.
Care Homes: The church must also be actively involved in the setting up and managing of orphanages, old peoples’ homes and homes for the disabled. In our current state, we have a lot of orphans, elderly people and the disabled who do not receive support from government and, in many cases, from their families. As a result, they are abandoned on streets and ignored by Nigerians. The church is duty bound to ensure the care of these vulnerable Nigerians. These are not second class citizens and as such, do not require pity but compassion and opportunity.
Community Development: The Church is not located in the air but in a community and her members are from the community. Therefore, the Church must get involved in community development projects that would affect the lives of her members, her host community and disadvantaged communities. The beauty of community development projects is that they involve a lot of volunteering by church members and members of the benefiting community, both of whom are sufficiently available.
Some key areas of focus should include:
1. Water: The Church should take the lead in providing boreholes and water tanks in their neighbouring communities, schools, and care and rehabilitation homes. This will drastically reduce many diseases caused/transmitted by unclean water and it would also assist those poor families who can’t afford to buy water from available boreholes.
2. Sanitation: The Church should set aside regular dates in their calendar to teach members and the community about the importance of good sanitation.
3. Social Housing: Using volunteers from members and the benefiting community, the Church can make significant impact in the area of social housing. Obviously, attention should be given to the housing needs of the vulnerable and less privileged like widows left with no inheritance, pensioners and the disabled. Sometimes, what is required is not just the building of simple affordable housing but also upgrading poorly built homes.
4. Microfinance Schemes: The Church must be actively involved in providing microfinance to members who are looking to establish small businesses but are constrained by lack of resources. With the reverence most members have for the Church, they are most likely to manage the Church’s microfinance better than a bank loan. This is in addition to the added benefit that such schemes will likely come with affordable interest rates.
5. Job Creation: The church can use her community development activities as a means for job creation.
6. Emergency Relief Services: Emergencies and natural disasters are inevitable in any society and due to climate change there are more earthquakes, flooding, heat waves and drought around the globe. In our nation, disasters also do occur as a result of epidemic, terrorism and political, religious or communal conflicts. The Church has to have a proactive approach to these issues and not only a reactionary approach. That means the Church should set up a unit that is trained and equipped with the right materials to properly and promptly address any emergencies. As often discovered, money is not normally the immediate solution in times of emergencies but having the manpower, equipment and materials to address the urgent needs of the victims.
Emergency relief service is not a role that should be left to the Nigerian Red Cross or National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The Church has a key role to play here as she is in the best positioned to minister to both the physical and spiritual needs of the victims. This becomes essential when the victims have to go through a long recovery process.
The huge social needs in Nigeria have caused many citizens to question the role of the Church in Nigeria. It is therefore imperative for citizens of faith to mobilise their Church leadership to make the much needed inroads in social work and in doing so, ensure a significant step towards a developed Nigeria.
Are you willing to take up this challenge with your Church leadership?