Love the Neighbors: Sparking a Local Revolution

Rachel Chimits

A heart for mission leaders in the United States has led World Challenge leaders to craft new ways to help.

When people talk about aid or nonprofits, usually the discussion is aimed at foreign disaster relief, feeding malnourished children or medical aid for epidemics. Only rarely do people think of the United States as the recipient of aid programs.

However, as issues such as racism, homosexuality, mass shootings and abortion shake our nation, many people are questioning how we can address these domestic troubles.

How do we help people on the other side of our own fence?

World Challenge’s Catalyst Grant program began as one response to this question.

Laying Catalyst’s Groundwork

Cory Ard and Sarah Steffensen, part of the World Challenge team, spent a year researching what was being done for domestic US issues and planning. 

“I think there’s a real responsibility on us to take a stand,” Sarah commented. “But instead of saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to send a bunch of missionaries to Chicago, LA, Atlanta or wherever,’ we said, ‘Let’s partner with people who are already active in their communities and help them go even further.’”

Together she and Cory began building a grant and mentorship program for new and small ministry groups.

“We called several conferences, proposing the idea of giving away money at their event to missions workers who are starting out,” Cory added. “They were shocked: ‘You want…to do what?’ One of them said, ‘Nobody else is doing what you’re doing. This is next level kingdom impact.”

Soon they had agreements to appear at four major conferences: Exponential, Catalyst West, Catalyst East and Desperation.

Building Around a Disciple’s Heart

World Challenge’s funding program is primarily intended to help new ministry leaders build solid Biblical principles and practical organizational skills.

As a seasoned ministry planter, Sarah explained, “I didn’t have a mentor starting out, so I had to learn the hard way. When things didn’t work, it cost a lot of time and money; sometimes people got hurt. All because of unconscious incompetence: I didn’t know what I didn’t know yet.”

While the grant funds will help new ministries expand, the most important aspect is the accompanying partnership.

Sarah and Cory have taken their own experiences as leaders and added World Challenge’s global church building and community development strategies, modified for a US context.

More than anything they want to see new leader experience success and growth. 

Summarizing their goals, Cory said, “The heart of this is discipleship. We want to build people up so they can build up others. Yes, the gospel transforms people’s lives, but it’s the discipleship that brings them into the fullness of a relationship with God.”

The Work in Action

In an effort to really help those who are just starting out, Sarah talked about one of their initial qualifications: “Our grants are aimed at people who are raising under one hundred thousand dollars annually, so we’re talking grassroots organizations.” 

One particular example of this relationship in action began two years ago when Sarah and Cory partnered with Chauncey LaBrie and WeighOut ministries.

WeighOut started as a Bible study with a passionate vision for helping the city, and it has developed into a full-fledged ministry with board meetings, an advisory team and a growing community reach.

Another, more recent partnership is with MOG, a local group of young adults that began as a high school Bible study and is transforming into an established church. 

With Sarah and Cory’s guidance, MOG’s leaders are submitting their bylaws and nonprofit paperwork, which is a huge step for them to start setting up accounting systems, accepting tithe money and paying people and creating a constitution on how they’re going to address spiritual issues that may arise.

Sarah and Cory are very careful about how they approach this development, though.

“Oftentimes we’re just asking our partners what areas they need help in.” Cory laid out a map of how they come alongside others. “Early on, we’ll list out areas where others have wanted mentoring. People often read that list and say, ‘Oh, wow. I never thought about this, but that’s something I need.’”

“If they’re unsure which way they want to go, we’ll tell them, ‘Go pray about it. Come back and tell us what the Lord said,’” Sarah adds. “We can fan the flame, but we don’t ever light the flame.”

How You Can Get Connected

For those who are interested in learning more and perhaps applying to become a partner, World Challenge’s Catalyst Grant program has two different opportunities. 

There is a grant specifically available for ministry leaders who attend one of the conferences partnered with World Challenge. 

Then a second grant is open to anyone who is impacting their community for Christ.

The World Challenge Catalyst Grants page has a short list of requirements so you can see if you’re eligible to become part of this program. 

If your ministry meets these criteria, you are invited to make an online application which lets us know a little bit about you and the organization you lead. 

We look forward to meeting you!