Session 3 – Long-term Change
Session 3 – Long-term Change
This session considers the biblical precedent for long term transformation over short term fixes, giving practical examples alongside discussion questions and activities.

Key Text: 2 Kings 4:1-6

Prepare: lay out two pieces of string to be the river-banks and some A4 sheets of paper as stepping-stones across the ‘river’. Also, print out the drama which can be found at the bottom of this page.

Feedback from Act of Love:

Go round in a circle and ask anyone willing to say a few sentences about what they did in response to last week’s session.

What helps bring long-term change in people’s lives, not just meet needs?

Activity: River Crossing


  1. Three people are heading to a wedding. They come to the river and look for a place to cross. The current is very strong and they are afraid to cross.
  2. Person 4 comes along and sees their difficulty. Person 4 shows them some stepping stones but they are both too afraid, so person 4 agrees to carry person 1 on their back.
  3. Person 4 successfully carries person 1 across and then comes back for person 2.
  4. This time, by the time they get to the middle of the river, the weight is too heavy and they are exhausted. Person 4 puts person 2 down on a stepping stone.
  5. Person 4 goes back to get the other person on the bank. However, this person refuses as they can see their friend stuck in the middle of the river. Instead, they ask to be shown how to cross. Person 4 takes person 3 by the hand and encourages them to step on the stones.
  6. Halfway across the river, person 3 starts to manage alone. They both cross the river. Person 2 is left in the middle.

Questions to discuss:

Key point: long-term change comes from breaking people’s mindset of dependency so that they can solve problems for themselves. Many organisations work by training communities to solve one specific problem or giving them the solution e.g. training in better farming methods or to dig a well – this is what person 1 represents. They can get across the river once but are stuck when something else happens. Worse, person 2 is like those who are left stranded when the organisation’s money runs out or no sustainable change has been achieved. Person 3 represents an approach where people are equipped to solve problems together and have confidence to face new challenges in future.

Two images to further illustrate this concept:

  1. A fruit tree: Mindset is key to EVERYTHING. Ideas have consequences and what we believe changes how we act. Imagine that the seeds of a tree are our beliefs and our behaviour is the fruit. If we plant apple seeds, an apple tree will grow. If we pick the apples and instead tie mangoes to the tree, it will still be an apple tree. The next year, it will grow apples again. In the same way, we cannot just focus on changing people’s behaviour to solve a problem as behaviour-change without belief-change will never last.
  2. ‘Teach a man to fish’: you have probably heard the phrase ‘give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.’ Unfortunately, this does not actually work. In an ever-changing environment, you are left with questions like ‘what if the river dries up?’, ‘what if the fish population is destroyed by over-fishing?’, ‘what if the man is no longer allowed to fish there?’ or, even more simply, ‘what if the man does not like fish?’ The slightly less pithy (but more accurate and less gendered!) adaptation could say: ‘give someone a fish, feed them for a day; teach someone to fish, feed them for a while; equip someone with the skills to identify their own resources and creatively solve their own problems, enable them to feed themselves for a lifetime.’

Why of these images do you find more helpful? Why?

Bible study: The Widow and the Oil (2 Kings 4:1-6)

Activity: pray for God’s Spirit to bring this passage to life and enable us to engage emotionally as we are reading it. Ask someone to read the passage. Then ask two volunteers to perform the radio drama based on the passage.

Questions to discuss:

Key points:

Principles in Practice: Malawi

Case study: The pastor of Nanjiri, central Malawi, after Eagles’ training, determined to fight poverty in his community in a way which brought about self-reliance rather than creating dependency. So he trained people from his congregation (who wanted to start businesses) in budgeting and management. This group started a business together to earn enough capital to enable each of them then to set up on their own. Learning from a man in a neighbouring village, the group began baking buns twice a week in a massive brick oven they constructed. Each time, they make 210, sell them in the market and save all the money. Within a couple of months, they had enough for every member of the group to take a loan to set up their own business.

Every week, the business group give money to support the poorest in the church: the elderly, widows and orphans who cannot care for themselves. Although they all have their own business, they continue baking together purely to provide for these vulnerable groups. Grateful for the way that the business has transformed their lives, the group is eager to serve the community. (

Principles in Practice: UK

Paloma, Management Consultant: “We place a huge emphasis on ‘problem-centric’ approaches whenever we’re faced with a project. There can be a real temptation for all of us to jump to ‘solutionising’ without really delving into the root cause. Only by starting with a robust human-centred understanding of the problem can we ensure our solution is fit for purpose and actually addresses what’s not working.”

Peter, Founder of Genesis Trust, an organisation working with the homeless community: “Our aim at the Genesis Trust is to help people to move forwards in their lives.  Many of our clients have major issues.  Our job is to give them hope for a better future.  We are alongside them as they make many small steps.  We don’t tell them what to do.  They have to decide themselves, and then we help them.”


Think about how and where we give our money to help others. To what extent do these initiatives live out this principle of ensuring long-term change? Pray together, thanking God for his love and his care for the most vulnerable, both physically and spiritually. Ask him for wisdom to show where we might need to change our giving, so we love God with all our heart, soul and mind.

Act of love

Identify a local organisation that supports vulnerable people to create long-term change in their lives, for example debt counselling, helping the homeless community to find jobs etc. Take action this week to support them in some way yourself (in general, it is much better to help organisations in an ongoing way if you can). Be ready to share a few sentences about their work next session.