Is sponsorship a band-aid solution to helping kids in poverty?

Exploring holistic child development and why it is essential to Compassion’s mission
  • By: Rebekah Malbrecht
A boy in a blue striped shirt smiles at the camera

Our mission at Compassion is to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Maybe you’ve heard this and asked what exactly does that mean? Releasing kids from poverty—that is easier said than done! And doing it in Jesus’ name? That is a big claim, you might think. And we would say yes, you are right!

Releasing children from poverty is work that takes careful thought, responsible action and lifelong commitment. It doesn’t happen in one moment, like satisfying hunger with a meal or quenching thirst with a cup of water. It also doesn’t happen in one way with a copy-and-paste solution. Poverty is a complex issue that must be addressed as such.

So, if poverty alleviation doesn’t happen in one moment and there isn’t one specific method, that may cause you to feel overwhelmed or perhaps even skeptical. How will we ever be able to accomplish this mission? Well, the key to our mission is actually found in the last three words: in Jesus’ name. Allow us to explain why because it may surprise you…

The way of Jesus

Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name is a big claim, as you may have thought. It is true that Jesus has called us to this ministry and that it is His work that we are doing, so in that sense, it is “in Jesus’ name.” But there is more to it than that. When we say, “in Jesus’ name,” we are responsible to accomplish the mission of releasing children from poverty in His way.

How does Jesus meet the needs of others? We see in the gospels that Jesus ministers to people holistically. He certainly ministers to people in a spiritual way, but He also addressed their physical, emotional and social needs. The way of Jesus is to restore every part of an individual’s life. In this way, He gives us a model to follow in order to address the complex issue of poverty.

That sounds great, you may be saying, but how do you apply this model to the work of setting kids free from poverty in today’s world? How does that tie into sponsorship? And how does this holistic approach work in the long run or is it still just a band-aid solution?

A girl in an orange shirt reads a book

Holistic child development in today’s world

The technical term for this model of ministry is holistic child development. Compassion’s program—the practical way that we accomplish our mission—is designed to develop children in every aspect of their lives. Compassion partners with the local church to ensure the children we serve are cared for physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually.

Dig deeper: An overview of what holistic child development can look like for kids in Compassion’s program

The fact that our program is designed to be holistic in this way ensures that it can remain agile, contemporary and relevant in today’s world. It is agile because our local church partners are required to be attentive to each child, assessing their needs and responding to them as they arise. It is contemporary because the program adapts as the child grows and meets their needs in the present moment while accounting for the unique challenges of each age and stage as the child experiences them. And it is relevant because every child’s situation will be a different combination of factors that contribute to their experience of poverty. Through holistic child development, every child’s situation is accounted for because every aspect of their life is addressed. This makes Compassion’s program relevant for each child.

A girl in a pink shirt and a boy in a white tshirt

Holistic child development and sponsorship

Child sponsorship is a very effective way to facilitate holistic child development for each child. It is personal, empowering and relational. Compassion’s sponsorship program engages with children at a one-on-one level, even while addressing the needs of their communities. The holistic child development model prioritizes the child and their unique needs which means that it is always personal.

Compassion’s sponsorship program is facilitated by our local church partners in the communities where children live which mean that it is also empowering. Holistic child development requires that every child is ministered to in a way that meets their needs, context and personality. Sponsorship empowers the local church to do just that.

And finally, the common denominator between sponsorship and holistic development is relationship. Sponsorship puts holistic child development into the context of relationships. Relationships between sponsor and child, child and church, Canadian church and global church, church and community, and child and Christ—all play a significant part in addressing every aspect of a child’s development.

Speaking of community, holistic child development also requires that a child’s context is addressed. The one-on-one care that every child receives cannot end the moment they walk out of their Compassion centre. This is why the local church is active in their community advocating for children, educating caregivers and leaders as well as identifying needs within the community that impact children. This is where Compassion’s complementary interventions come in—providing clean water through wells, building washrooms, running workshops, doing disaster relief work and more are all ways that Compassion comes alongside sponsorship to ensure that the context that a child is living, growing and developing in is a healthy one.

A group of children stand in a group and smile

Holistic child development as a long-term solution

Holistic child development is why sponsorship is not a band-aid solution. When you sponsor a child with Compassion, you can trust that child is personally known and that their needs are met as they arise. Their Compassion centre has specific and measurable ways to check in with their development regularly. The child will be cared for in this way until they leave or graduate from the program, meaning that they will have access to everything they need to break the cycle of poverty in their life.

If only you knew how this was instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty, not only for my life, but also in my family. I want you to know that choosing to sponsor me was worth it.”

Owen, Compassion Alumnus

Read his story here

Holistic child development is more than solving problems for children, it is building their lives so that they can live differently. The impact of this type of ministry for children goes far beyond the time that they are in Compassion’s sponsorship program. It is an investment that lasts a lifetime.

A boy in a blue striped shirt smiles at the camera

Jesus describes His mission in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Life. Abundantly. This is the essence of holistic child development. It is ministering to children in the way of Jesus. This is what it means to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. It means doing it in His way. That is the key to accomplishing our mission.

In Jesus’ name.

In Jesus’ way.

Sponsor a child today