Q&A with Dr. Dan Brewster

Q&A with Dr. Dan Brewster


Dan advises the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries in their child development programs. For 30 years, Dan worked with Compassion International and recently retired from the role of director for their international Holistic Child Development (HCD) ministries. He is credited with coining the term “4–14 Window,” to refer to the importance of reaching children during the spiritually formative time between ages 4 and 14. He has traveled to over 100 countries and been involved in planning and monitoring child and family development for relief projects in more than 50 countries. Dan and his wife, Alice, have lived in Penang, Malaysia for the past 19 years. He has a doctorate in missiology from Fuller Seminary and has written and taught widely, promoting and managing Christian HCD ministries and programs.

Q: What could you share from your own research and experience as to why a concern for and focus on children is a powerful approach in poverty reduction? 01

Community development often has an adult bias. This bias may be a mistake in terms of effectiveness even for development purposes. For many years, UNICEF research has consistently indicated that the most significant interventions for national development are child health and education.24

My work in Compassion bore this out. Though we did not call our work “community development” and our funds did not assist in broad community development activities, our child development projects, if well-designed and managed, often resulted in better quality community development outcomes. We found that communities could often unite around the needs of their children even though other issues were divisive. Parents joined together to make improvements to schools, water supplies and roads as a response to the challenges of their children. The community provided the context for our ministries and many of the essential resources. So even if our objective is to relieve poverty on a national or community scale, we do well to focus primarily on ministry to children.

Q: What are unique issues facing children around the world living in extreme poverty? 02

Poverty goes beyond finances, so addressing it must go beyond material assistance as well. I believe that children and families are best helped when they are becoming the whole person that God intends them to be. That means providing nutritious food, education, health care and an understanding of biblical truths. That requires a monetary investment at some point, of course. Many people, including my wife and myself, give to sponsor children and to address the many problems they face. These financial investments are important— but they aren’t the sole solution. Ultimately, the goal for every human, whether they live in poverty or prosperity, is that they would come to know that they are made in the image of God and they can use the resources that God has provided to make a difference, in their own lives and the lives of others.

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