Four things any church can do to address global poverty

Churches and pastors are often eager to respond to the problems of global poverty and injustice. Yet before they take steps to address these problems, pastors -- like anyone else -- want to know how they can make a difference. Because there are so many hurting people whose communities face complex obstacles, I’m frequently asked what one person or one church can do.

If you’re a fellow church or ministry leader, you know that God doesn’t promise that the odds will always be in our favor when accomplishing the work He has set before us.

When church leaders look today at the scale of global poverty, it’s easy to feel like the numbers are stacked against them.

  • 1 billion people suffer from a lack of adequate nutrition.
  • Half of the children in developing countries are born into poverty.
  • 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day.

Compared to those staggering figures, the size of the average church in America is just 186 regular attenders. Sounds a bit like Gideon facing thousands of Midianites, “thick as locusts,” with just 300 men.

What can a typical church in Michigan or Oklahoma do when poverty and justice issues are so big, global, and daunting? When pastors ask me what their church can do to help meet the needs of hurting people around the world, I give them four ideas.

Any church -- no matter the size -- can:


Gideon’s army didn’t prevail because of strength or strategy, but because God was in their camp. We must never cease to pray as we consider the size of the challenge and the ruthlessness of the enemy we face. Prayer enlists a God who is bigger than any problem, and God has promised to be at our side as we engage the world Jesus sent us into. In Matthew 28:20 (NIV), He says, “Surely, I am with you always…”

2. ACT

While we depend on prayer, there is much that we can do with our hands as well. For a local church, the most obvious place to "act" is locally. Children need tutors, shut-ins need visitors, and hurting people need shoulders to lean on.

Many churches also want to act overseas. Partnering with an organization like World Vision can allow a small church to take smart action in response to needs around the world. We have deep roots in the communities in which we work, and we are eager to partner with churches to share our knowledge and offer our help.


Even the smallest churches can make a difference. It may not be practical for your church to tackle the famine in the Horn of Africa, start a microfinance bank, or begin drilling clean water boreholes, but any church has access to the financial resources desperately needed to help accomplish these things and more. We live in the wealthiest nation of Christians in the history of Christianity. At the same time, just $50 can help buy clean water for one person for a lifetime. No matter the size of the church, a modest financial gift can be life-saving to someone in need.


Advocating on behalf of those affected by poverty and injustice is a powerful way for churches to reflect the love and compassion of Christ.

Using your influence as a church can maximize your impact. Being a voice for the voiceless helps you to change things in the world by influencing the people, policies, and systems that could have a more dramatic impact on the poor than a small church could ever have.

Lately, I’ve been impressed by how important it is for the church to use its influence. Let me give you just one example. The humanitarian assistance budget of our government has been threatened with an unprecedented 40-percent reduction in funding. That amounts to around $10 billion. Not everyone agrees about the proper role of government in alleviating poverty overseas. But we can be sure that if this cut is made, thousands and maybe even millions of people could die because food aid is stopped, malaria prevention programs are scrapped, health and clean water programs are shuttered, or anti-retroviral drugs are cut off.

A church can stand in the gap for the defenseless and save more lives than any missions program could possibly afford. This kind of influence can be powerful on a local level, where poverty, homelessness, and economic injustice require the church to address the structures that may prevent the poor from improving their lives.

*     *     *

No matter the size of your church, God calls you to do something. As the saying goes, what counts is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Thankfully, we can all pray, act, give, and influence for the sake of the gospel.

Explore some of the ways by which your church can partner with World Vision and do more to be the hands and feet of Christ in areas of the world where the need and suffering are great.

Does your church have other ideas? We want to hear them! Share your thoughts as comments below.


    I am Blessed to apart of this God ordained outreach. My husband who's passed on to be with our Lord Jesus, I believe will have children and others come up to Him and say when I was hungry you fed me thirsty you gave me drink cold you clothed me ect & thank him for sharing his wealth(money)
    For he labored outside 365 days a year in all weather truy labored and shared ( layed up treasure in Heaven )as Christ asks us to do.
    To God Be the Glory Forever and Forever

    Hi I am very moved by the book The hole in our Gospel. God has been using the book to really speak to me. I am trying to raise money for orphans in Russia. I would like to get my church involved but I dod not know where to start. Do you have any suggestions that could help me get going. Honestly I am kind of afraid to stir anything up that I cant handle. God has laid it on my heart to help theese kids and given me the connection with them. I just need to know what to do now. I know they need money to help them. The kids live in orphanages that treat them injustly. They dont know about Jesus because they die early in life. I started a praise team with our kids minsistry at church and I am trying to teach then to perform so we can take up offerings for the orphans. God laid it on my heart to do this. But I am having a hard time expressing the idea to others. do you have any suggestions feel free to email me. Thanks

    Gillian, love your heart and passion for this. We encourage you to dream big, but set realistic expectations (small goals) along the way. Be in prayer for wisdom as you discern what the expectations should be. Gather friends and have them read the books that have been inspiring you... make sure they understand why you are passionate and help them to be passionate too. Once others around you have the same vision, a movement can be started. Hope that helps! We'll pray for you today. -Jonathan, WV staff

    Thanks I appriciate your input. today I saw on your website where we can do a small group study on the book. thanks again!

    i am pastor vasanth,from karnataka state,holenarsipur city,hassan district,since from 15 years i serving God in this place i thanks to God, because God gave us 300 believers and he chosend me to start independent (own) ministry,we are going throw our vision to win 10,000 souls,in the past i had so many in my ministry,like my son had fractured from leg ,my daughter had fraqtured from hand in past,i also had so many trouble in my individual,like my leg was fraqtuered in past,this problem went 3 months ones,from these also not enough, satan gave more and more in my family,but i did not lose ministry,i hard working to ministry,but we need church ,i thank you for you, because you are hearing our words,we are praying for you,and we need your prayer

    Leave a Comment

    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.