JustFaith: Transforming Churches
Strengthening Advocacy Through Education
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” —Luke 14: 13-14 (NIV)
Many Bread members have introduced their churches to JustFaith, a Scripture-based adult education program that explores the biblical prescription to heal our broken world and foster congregational and individual wholeness. The 30 weekly sessions are carefully planned for faith sharing that includes prayer, study, and immersion. Each week’s curriculum deepens the participants’ understanding of the biblical basis for advocacy.
JustFaith offers educational programs all over the country for small groups of Christians who want to deepen their commitment—individually and within their churches—to people in need. Bread for World is a full partner in JustFaith. In 2008, we worked to develop a new ecumenical version of the curriculum to meet growing interest in the larger Christian community. Both the Catholic and ecumenical versions incorporate a Bread for the World Offering of Letters.
Recently, Bread members Bob and Janet Raes facilitated a JustFaith group at West Linn Lutheran Church in Oregon and saw how it transformed lives.
The immersion part of the program helps break down invisible barriers that hide suffering in the world. Bob and Janet recalled how simply listening to a homeless couple’s experience opened up a new world to their group. The homeless couple told a story of selling bracelets on the sidewalk with their dog and feeling that they weren’t treated with dignity. A passerby offered them money to feed their dog, but ignored them as people. The message the couple received? The dog deserved compassion, but they did not.
"Our groups said, 'We are going to really see people,'" says Janet. “Some ride the bus now and that has just changed them."
Their congregation sponsored three months of rent to transition a homeless family into stable housing. They also helped them move in and listened to their goals. Bob and Janet know that compassion is relational.
Through JustFaith, participants learn about both charity and advocacy. The latter is often harder for churches to embrace. "People are so allergic to the word 'advocate' — instead of advocating we say we are 'seeking justice,'" said Bob. JustFaith has helped their church to take a deeper look at the root causes of hunger and write letters as part of Bread for the World’s yearly Offering of Letters campaign, which asks Congress to create programs and policies that end hunger and poverty.
Even though participants in JustFaith are a small subset of any congregation, as other parishioners see the group transform, it leads to changes in the church. “It’s an invasive species,” says Janet with a smile.
Fall is the typical starting time for a JustFaith group—many churches are already posting information and forming groups. If you would like to learn more and find out how you can start a group, visit www.bread.org/justfaith or contact your regional organizer.