“C.I.F.A” and “SHALOM” groups – Part 1
Our approach to addressing Africa’s problems is holistic and community driven in nature. This is because we recognize that the work of transforming a community is not a quick fix intervention. We are therefore careful not to create a dependency or “hand-outs’ culture in the communities where we work. We believe that each person has inherent in them a God given potential to build themselves up. We believe that Africa’s problems and especially those of rural communities will be effectively addressed by empowering the whole person to take personal responsibility to change their situation.
The argument of the whole gospel for the whole person is that people are faced with mental, social, economic, spiritual, and cultural issues which must be addressed in totality for true transformation to happen. This is why we promote the approach that engages the whole person – mentally, socially, culturally, economically, physically – and helping him see how the whole gospel of the word of God addresses the entirety of human needs. We believe the word of God has guidance for mankind on how to live socially, how to achieve economic productivity, how to make sound cultural choices and also how he should take care of his body and the environment God has put him in.
We achieve our results through the Community Integrated Financial Association (CIFA) and the “shalom” groups model. The CIFAs are the broader community groups which are formed by the pastors who are engaged with PA. The “Integrated” in the name represents the idea that PA’s work is an integrated or holistic approach to life and community transformation, which also includes microfinance activities. PA begins the holistic ministry in any community by organizing pastors into groups. We then encourage and expect each pastor to organize the members of his church into groups so they too are engaged in holistic programs. These groups of church members as organized by each pastor are what we call “shalom” groups or simply accountability or life groups. The larger CIFA group begins with the pastors but then incorporates the “shalom” groups under each pastor. CIFA becomes the umbrella group that brings together all the pastors and the members of their church who are within the same county and who are interested in engaging in holistic ministry. PA devised this as a biblical and logical model of managing a growing and expanding work in the different counties. Through this model, many pastors become leaders of holistic transformation. This also helps PA to work through pastor leaders instead of hiring more and more staff members to work in the counties.
There are 84 CIFA groups and 599 shalom groups formed across 4 countries where PA now has a ministry footprint
Under this model, rural poor people are organized and formed into community-based self-help groups registered by the government for purposes of engaging in economic empowerment, spiritual development, and socio-political enhancement initiatives. The organizing and registering of the groups gives them both the legal and organizational frameworks to engage in and manage their activities. In the CIFAs, members are trained and equipped to take personal responsibility for the change they desire. The training is intended to change the mindset of an individual from dependency on a handouts culture to a “hands-up” focus, where external support is limited to boosting community driven initiatives. The groups also provide better platforms and accountability for the micro-lending and other activities undertaken by the members of the group. The caring relationships created help ensure that each member of the group is monitored and held accountable to group ideals and values.
In the CIFAs and shalom groups, the poor are able to develop certain disciplines like saving regularly, borrowing wisely and repaying promptly, economic empowerment and social development. They are also involved in Bible study, prayer, outreach, community service and other activities that help the group members grow together. PA also explores networking opportunities for purposes of linking these groups to other resources and opportunities for their growth.
With this approach, we have seen pastors in rural communities mobilize their members to be engaged as part of the solution in transforming their communities. The groups provide a sense of belonging, a learning environment, and a support network that helps even the weak have a chance to grow. Regardless of the sense of community created, the groups are also designed to teach and encourage personal responsibility. They have set by laws to govern relationships to ensure that no member of the group takes advantage of those who are hard working. Every member is given a chance to contribute before they benefit.