Rather than setting out some principles to follow, even Nehemiah principles, the headings of the Nehemiah Pattern provide a checklist to follow through the whole process including results, and also give a valuable framework for evaluating other projects and even the lives of Bible characters for a Bible study.


The Context includes the history and present state of a church's parish or catchment area in terms of its population (class ethnic background, age, and trends in these); shopping, employment, health, education and leisure facilities, including other churches and voluntary organisations; outside influences. A parish audit is a useful starting point to assess all this as it can also involve all the church members and groups, and provide visual display material, and background statistics when applying for grants.


Though "You were created in Christ Jesus to do the good works God prepared beforehand" (Eph. 2v10), His guidance is still needed in Taking an Initiative, and choosing from among all the good ideas and pressing needs. The motives for acting must be right, a love for one's neighbours leading to compassionate action - not paternalism, nor creating dependencies, not church empire building. Definite aims with numerical targets and dates are necessary in order to evaluate success - or failure.


The most important Resources to Identify are the spiritual ones of prayer, guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit, and may include spiritual gifts. Human resources in the church include those with professional or technical skills, the retired, teenagers, and the unemployed, though particular care is needed not to exploit the last. The church buildings or land should be seen as an important asset, and financial resources include donations, fund raising, loans and grants from government or local authority and other charities. Many outside agencies can provide information, advice and training.


Overcoming Opposition may not be as daunting as it was for Nehemiah, but there will be opposition both within and outside the church, and other barriers or difficulties to overcome. There may be jealousy from other groups not obtaining grants, resentment from older people or the successful, and perhaps most difficult of all a general apathy and unwillingness to make commitments to voluntary work. It takes time for attitudes to change.


The scope of the initiative should be such that it Involves and Enables the Community outside the church, irrespective of their religion and attitude towards Christianity to set up and establish their own initiatives to fulfil their aspirations, for the community to be self supporting and self determining rather than dependent.


The success of the initiative can be gauged by looking at the Community Benefits and Lessons Learnt. Some benefits may be easily measured such as the number of jobs created, others concerning the quality of health more difficult and others are intangible. However local authorities are currently developing indices to evaluate the quality of their service provision and churches could take up these - and develop or contradict them.


The lessons learnt need to be applied and the whole cycle gone through again for there to be continuing successful development as the context changes.


In Development Practices and the Churches: the Role of the Local Church in Community Development the headings of the Nehemiah Pattern have been slightly expanded, and are called components in the Community Development Spiral. The relationship between them is as follows:-



Knowing the Context

Starting Where People Are

Taking an Initiative

Learning to Do: Doing to Learn and Stepping Out

Identifying Resources


Overcoming Opposition

Stepping Over

Involving and Enabling the Community

Standing Back and

Project to Programme

Community Benefits

Stepping Down

Lessons Learnt

Done and Learnt and Replication


The components in the Development Practices list constitute a spiral, as an important element in community development projects is that they should be replicable elsewhere. However although many lessons will have been learnt and make the next project easier, in practice replication is difficult because conditions change and are in any case different elsewhere.

Very often a special project gets special backing not available to its successors, finance is tighter, and the political situation is no longer favourable.



Ezra and Nehemiah

by Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, IVP, 1979.

When Your Goals Seem Out of Reach - Take a Lesson from Nehemiah

by Gene A. Getz, Regal Books, 1981.


Nehemiah - Seven Group Bible Studies

by Alec Motyer, Bible Society.


Marketplace Study Bible

special sample edition on the Church at Ephesus, IVCF, 1989.


Beyond Charity; the Call to Christian Community Development

by John M. Perkins, Baker Books, 1994.


Beyond the Good Samaritan

by Ann Morisy, Mowbray, 1997.


It Can Be Done; the Real Heroes of the Inner City

by Fred Catherwood, Lutterworth Press, 2000.


Renewal - People in Focus,

Annual Report of Newham Community Renewal, 2000.





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