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Eternity, Governance

When Helping Hurts

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself

“Finally a book that addresses one of the most critical needs in the world today—the alleviation of poverty—drawing from not only a rock-solid biblical and theological framework but also from sound holistic principles that have been proven “on the field” to be truly effective in serving the poor in any cultural context.

Corbett and Fikkert have done a masterful job integrating insights from scripture, social science research, and community development practice to give readers sound and imminently practical and effective strategies for equipping people to have more effective ministry to the poor.

In this excellent book you’ll discover new ways of approaching short-term missions (that truly help the poor rather than hurt them) as well as new ways of providing long-term economic empowerment of poor people both in North American and across the world. When Helping Hurts should be required reading for all church leaders, academics and church members.”

Dr. Steven L. Childers
President & CEO
Global Church Advancement
Associate Professor of Practical Theology
Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando

Original Post here

Amazon Editorial Review:

Churches and individual Christians typically have faulty assumptions about the causes of poverty, resulting in the use of strategies that do considerable harm to poor people and themselves.

“When Helping Hurts” provides foundational concepts, clearly articulated general principles and relevant applications. The result is an effective and holistic ministry to the poor, not a truncated gospel.

A situation is assessed for whether relief, rehabilitation, or development is the best response to a situation. Efforts are characterized by an “assest based” approach rather than a “needs based” approach. Short term mission efforts are addressed and microenterprise development (MED) is explored.

About the Author

Steve Corbett is the Community Development Specialist for the Chalmers Center for Economic Development and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College. Previously, Steve worked for Food for the Hungry International as the Regional Director for Central And South America and as Director of Staff Training. Steve has a B.A. from covenant College and a M.Ed. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia.

Brian Fikkert is an Associate Professor of Economics at Covenant College and the Founder and Executive Director of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. Brian received a Ph.D. in Economics with highest honors from Yale University, and a B.A. in Mathematics from Dordt College. Specializing in Third World Development and International Economics, Brian has been a consultant to the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development. He has published articles in both leading academic and popular journals and has been a contributor to several books. Prior to coming to Covenant College, he was a professor at the University of Maryland and a research fellow at the Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector.

Why We Wrote This Book
By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

We have spent most of our adult lives trying to learn how to improve the lives of poor people. Steve worked for many years with a major Christian relief and development agency, serving in roles ranging from grassroots community developer, to country director, to serving on the global management team. Brian took the academic route, spending his time as a researcher and a professor. About seven years ago our lives converged as we began working together at the Chalmers Center for Economic Development, a research and training initiative that seeks to equip churches around the world to minister to the economic and spiritual needs of low-income people. We also teach together in an undergraduate major in Community Development at Covenant College, a degree program that tries to prepare Christian young people to make a difference in the lives of low-income people in North America and around the world.

We still have a lot to learn, as the problems of poverty continue to confound us. Moreover, we do not pretend that the material in this book is unique to us. Rather, the book is simply a way of synthesizing and organizing the ideas of many others into a framework that audiences in a variety of settings have found helpful. We are deeply indebted to the many authors, researchers, and practitioners who have produced a vast range of principles, resources, and tools for us to draw upon. We hope that this book will help—in some small way—to make their ideas and tools more accessible to others.

We write this book with a great deal of excitement about the renewed interest in helping low-income people that is so apparent among North American Christians. While materialism, self-centeredness, and complacency continue to plague all of us, nobody can deny the upswing in social concern among North American evangelicals in the past two decades. There is perhaps no better illustration of this trend than the exploding short-term mission movement, much of which has focused on ministering to the poor at home and abroad.

But our excitement about these developments is seriously tempered by two convictions. First, North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet, most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world. We attend our kids’ soccer games, pursue our careers, and take beach vacations while 40 percent of the world’s inhabitants struggle just to eat every day. And in our own backyards, the homeless, those residing in ghettos, and a wave of immigrants live in a world outside the economic and social mainstream of North America. We do not necessarily need to feel guilty about our wealth. But we do need to get up every morning with a deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world and yearn and strive to do something about it. There is simply not enough yearning and striving going on.

Second, many observers, including the two of us, believe that when North American Christians do attempt to alleviate poverty, the methods used often do considerable harm to both the materially poor and the materially non-poor. Our concern is not just that these methods are wasting human, spiritual, financial, and organizational resources but that these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve.

We’re Actually Making the Poor Poorer

“By Faith” Magazine interview the authors

Let’s start with the basics: What motivated you to invest the time and effort in a project of this magnitude?

Brian: While North American evangelicals are not doing nearly enough to address poverty either at home or abroad, it has been great to see the renewed interest in social action in the past two decades. Unfortunately, a lot of what is being done by our churches and parachurch ministries is out of touch with best theory and practices. More importantly, much of it is simply inconsistent with biblical teaching concerning the nature of poverty and the human condition.

Steve: We wanted to speak into the growing movement within the church of helping hurting people. There is a lot of good motivation in the body of Christ, but too many practices are built on a limited understanding of poverty’s causes as well as good principles and practices of poverty alleviation. Our zeal needs to be more deeply informed so that our efforts don’t make people poorer. To be frank, there are some harmful mission and ministry myths that need to be confronted. Doing so will not only help poor people, but also could redirect the money being spent on “helping” that doesn’t make enough difference.

After people have read the book, what do you want them to know, generally, that they don’t know now?

Brian: I want people to have a biblical framework for thinking about the nature of poverty and its alleviation. If a doctor misdiagnoses the patient’s illness, he will prescribe the wrong medication. The patient will not get better and might even get worse. The same is true about our efforts to minister to the poor. The “medicine” we prescribe reflects our understanding of the underlying problem. If we have misdiagnosed the problem of poverty we can do harm to poor people, and surprisingly, to ourselves. I hope this book will help people examine their diagnosis of the causes of poverty and reconsider the medicine they are prescribing. Where are they in tune with Scripture and where do they need to make some adjustments? In the process, I also hope the book will help readers learn some fundamental things about themselves.

Steve: We want people to learn a number of things: that poverty has multiple dimensions; it is not primarily about “providing”; helping can hurt; something is not always better than nothing; short-term help which feels good to the giver can often be harmful to the receiver; and start with what people have and build from there.

What do you hope people will do as a result of reading your book?

Brian: That the authors and readers will repent of our arrogance, pride, and indifference. And then that they will seek to do both more to help the poor and find ways to do it better. We want to see churches and parachurch ministries reexamine what they are already doing and ask if there are ways they could adjust their approach. And we hope that churches and parachurch ministries will consider new interventions that they might use to be part of restoring people to being all that God created them to be.

Steve: I want readers to recognize that God has been at work in the lives of individuals and communities, so there is much to build on. Listen first. Forgo the ministry-in-a-box mentality and realize that while there are many good things that have been learned, local context really matters. As Brian said, reexamine current practices in light of some things they encounter in our book. Be encouraged that good things can be done by individuals, small and large churches, and ministries, and thus move forward.

For more information please visit www.whenhelpinghurts.org


About steveblizard

Steve Blizard commenced his financial planning career in 1988 from a background of life insurance broking, a field in which he still works. He is a member of the Financial Planning Association and the Responsible Investment Association. His experience ranges from administration of Superannuation to advice regarding insurance, retirement, remuneration and investment planning. Steve is an accredited Remuneration Consultant, specialising in salary packaging. He is a columnist for the Swan Magazine and the WA Business News


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