This article presents the situation of the Central Methodist Mission in inner-city Johannesburg and the role played by its religious leadership in defining, shaping and supporting relief and longer-term development projects. Following a series of xenophobic attacks in 2008 the number of migrants and refugees assisted by the church increased exponentially. Despite the difficulties that this organisation encountered, the work of assistance to those in need was pursued, thanks to the tenacity and vision of the religious leader of the institution. This underlines the crucial role of leadership within religious organisations delivering development, especially in small organisations that are not used to the language of the development apparatus. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.