How to Write and Use a Theology of Development

We make dozens of decisions every day in our work of raising kingdom resources. These decisions are shaped and driven by our understanding of what will be most effective and aligns with the values of our organization. 

While we are aware these underlying motivations exist, it’s not often that leaders in development invest the resources to clearly articulate the purpose of and principles for their work. Yet, for most of us in the Christian development world, we desire to raise funds according to biblical values.

Do we understand those values specifically as they pertain to our work? And have we written them down so they can guide us in our decision making? 

That is the purpose of writing a theology of development for your fundraising work. This post outlines what that document could look like and how you can use it. 

Before diving in, let’s start with a definition: A Theology of Development is a statement of principles and motivations for your development work and the outcomes you hope to achieve through it.

Now let’s take a closer look. 

Why It’s Important

While the importance of a Theology of Development may be clear to you, your leadership team might need a greater understanding about dedicating time and resources to creating one. Here are 10 reasons I believe it is critical for every Christian nonprofit and church to have a clearly stated Theology of Development. 

A Theology of Development:

  1. States our Core Values regarding the raising of kingdom resources
  2. Grounds our work in Biblical teaching and sound theology
  3. Sets our boundaries for how we will carry out our work
  4. Articulates to our giving partners our values and commitments
  5. Focuses our prayers around discernment and trust
  6. Guides our planning as a lens through which we evaluate our work
  7. Shapes our language to align with our commitments
  8. Influences our hiring by focusing us on top priorities
  9. Frames our metrics and how we measure success
  10. Catalyzes our celebrations that give God the glory

How It Should Be Structured

Now we turn to the question of structure. We have found that the following basic framework works best. You can adapt it to your own needs and context. 

Preamble 

  • Definition
  • Why this is important
  • How we will use it

Four Biblical/Theological Commitments

  1. God Owns It All

    • Key Scriptures
    • Based on these Scriptures we believe:
    • As a result, we commit to…

  1. We Are Stewards, Not Owners in Every Sphere of Life

    • Key Scriptures
    • Based on these Scriptures we believe:
    • As a result, we commit to…

  1. We are on a journey from the bondage of ownership to the freedom of the faithful steward

    • Key Scriptures
    • Based on these Scriptures we believe:
    • As a result, we commit to…

  1. Our Work in Development is Ministry

    • Key Scriptures
    • Based on these Scriptures we believe:
    • As a result, we commit to…

Implications for Our Development Work

    • For us this means…

Conclusion

    • Closing commitments

The Writing Process

Perhaps one of the most important steps is the writing process itself. 

We encourage organizations to convene a select group of people to draft the document and develop a plan to ensure it gets broad distribution for feedback along the way. 

We also encourage taking the time to do this well. Sometimes this has been a six-month process with monthly meetings; others have done it in a shorter time frame. Either way, building time to listen to a broad set of voices will help your Theology of Development truly reflect how God is leading you to do your fundraising work. 

How to Use It

Once you have completed your Theology of Development you need to actually use it. It can integrate into the life and culture of your organization in these ways:

  1. Focus your prayers on clarity, faithfulness and discernment
  2. Guide your planning by using it as a lens through which you evaluate your plans
  3. Direct your inviting by remembering its values as you prepare for your invitation meetings
  4. Inform your communications by evaluating all communications through it
  5. Change your language in how you talk about your work internally and externally
  6. Influence your hiring as you consider rewriting job descriptions to align with it
  7. Frame your assessments and evaluate and reframe your metrics to align with it
  8. Catalyze your celebrations to ensure they give God the glory

I believe God has called all of us to this ministry as stewards. As we trust in him, we will seek to be obedient to that call through our commitment to align our work with biblical values in all we do. As a result, we can be confident that he will bless our work, and all who serve and support it, with his joy and abundance.

To God Be the Glory!

Scott Rodin for The FOCUS Group