Austin Bible Institute has a new certificate course that’s raising the ire of experienced humanitarians. A two month certificate program is set to provide ALL the tools necessary to launch a brand new orphanage.

Why might this be a problem?

I can’t speak for Joe Schmoe, but in the realm of conservative evangelicalism, the ‘white saviour complex’ is rife throughout the divisions. How evangelicals approach and do missions certainly crosses a spectrum (a lot of good work out there), but for the average churchgoer looking to get their feet wet in saving humanity responds to serious problems in damaging and/or inconsequential ways. The program is, at least on the surface, exacerbating these issues.

The course summary does clearly state it’s the first steps and merely an introduction to the issue. It’s conceivable that the course web page is sensationally worded for the target market of prospective students. Nonetheless, a brief program that promises,

…everything that a student needs to go from their dream to launching their new organization….[and has] no particular background required

in a matter of 8 weeks in an online course no less–I have reservations.

 

How the average Christian approaches short-term mission work and social outreach–in particular international work–needs a complete overhaul.

Out goes the colonial attitude of, “we know best”. Gone is the narrative of, “we are compelled to save someone”, or “we have to do our own thing”. In its place, a more holistic collaborative posture that appreciates the work already unfolding around us. That’s easier said than because ownership is a necessity for many evangelicals who treat theological paradigm as paramount over total impact.

Chances are the best way you can help in any fight is to side with the pros and send your money. Unfortunately, you get none of the glory or ownership, but it’ll make the biggest impact. Overall, we need to do better by asking better questions and training our students to use robust critical thinking mechanisms that develop capabilities based on accepted method while enabling a level of innovation for unique circumstances.

Better questions to ask before starting your own orphanage include:

  • Would the same training qualify me to do the same work in my home city or country?
  • What’s already on the ground addressing the issue?
  • How can I partner with like-minded organizations already doing the work?
  • Am I ‘doing good’ for my own heart?
  • Do we have any experience or know anybody with experience in this area to help inform our response (an eight week course doesn’t count).

More could be said, but overall the culture of mission work needs to ask serious questions before embarking on daunting challenges that take decades to fix.

For more discussion on this particular course offering visit Outbounding.