In our Helping without Hurting in Benevolence Ministry training, we share principles and tools to help you build a ministry that leads to real change. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every church. In order to create a benevolence program that works for your specific church context, you may need to make adjustments to fit your church’s specific capacity.
“30,000 Haitian kids live in private orphanages. Officials want to shutter them and reunite families.” This was the headline of an Associated Press article published this summer in over 600 media outlets around the U.S.. It shares how Haiti’s orphanages and children’s homes have long served as a band-aid to more complex problems, such as extreme poverty and lack of access to quality education.
Poverty is a complex issue affecting billions of people around the world. In 2023, the World Bank estimated 3.6 billion people worldwide were living on less than $6.85 per day and over 650 million were living in extreme poverty on less than $2.15 per day 1 If God’s people want to follow the heart of our gracious and compassionate God and take seriously His commands to care for those in poverty (Ex. 23:6, 11; Lev. 19:10, 23:10, 25:35-39; Deut. 15:4-7; Gal. 2:10; James 2:1-7; etc.), we should not let staggering numbers like this pass us by.
Adapted from When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Ourselves.
Defining poverty is not simply an academic exercise. The ways we define poverty—either implicitly or explicitly—play a major role in determining the solutions we use in our attempts to alleviate that poverty.
Over the past year, The Chalmers Center has made significant changes and improvements to our Work Life program. We’re excited to share these updates with you and pray that they bless your ministry. If you are not already part of the Work Life community, we hope that we might partner with you in the future!
You’d never guess through Tabitha’s bright smile that she was previously incarcerated. When she exited prison, she knew she needed a job, but she didn’t know where to start — because at her core, she didn’t believe she was worthy of a job.
Local churches often make a significant mistake when it comes to helping those in poverty. They sometimes create divisions in their efforts that aren’t really necessary, according to Scripture. When we split up the act of spreading the message of God’s transformative power (evangelism) and the act of serving others or providing practical life skills (service or technical programming), we give the wrong impression that the world is fragmented. We make it seem like God’s work is separate from helping people in need.
As the Director of Programs for Restoration House in the Knoxville area, Lori Haskell has years of experience working with single moms who find themselves in difficult circumstances, especially when it comes to finances. They want to be financially self-sufficient but often lack the training and support they need to get there.
Branch15 is a ministry in Oklahoma City that serves women in critical, life-controlling situations. They provide their clients with transitional housing and robust rehabilitation classes. Through contextualized programs centered around connection, care, authenticity, and empowerment, they fulfill their mission of fostering healing and restoration in the lives of their clients—that every woman who enters Branch15 might experience “fresh starts, pure hope, and amazing grace.”
People are not projects. Please listen to these words and take them to heart. All human beings are made in the image of the living God. This means we are never merely projects defined by our economic statuses, our material possessions, or our vocations, graded on some scale of how well we are doing at life. Rather, we are equal in worth and in dignity, and this is true across race, nationality, age, culture, and gender, etc. In the same way, the church is full of beautiful, broken people gathering together to embrace Jesus’ love and to extend benevolence to all people. Doing benevolence well is an act of love in itself.
The work of creating a benevolence ministry that provides material assistance to those in need without creating or perpetuating unhealthy dependencies is challenging. It’s important for churches and ministries pursuing this work to come from a position of humility. Approaching church benevolence with the right posture should drive us to the cross, as it creates the opportunity for us to see our own sin and our own inadequacy. We cannot independently generate change in systems, people, and communities, but that does not hinder the work of the Holy Spirit.
Over the last few months, we have reviewed the Ministry Design Principles established by A Field Guide to Becoming Whole, and today we look at the last five principles. Creating and stewarding God’s Kingdom Community means that we need to actively care about our stories, practices, systems, people, and spirits, which these twenty principles seek to address. Together, these principles help us steer our ministries towards a whole, flourishing community in Christ.
Building God’s kingdom community means working to replace destructive formative practices with those that lead to true flourishing. The Ministry Design Principles we’re highlighting this week focus heavily on the relational aspect of poverty alleviation. Afterall, we are each innately relational beings with minds, affections, wills, and bodies, and we need to remember this as we walk alongside people in material poverty.
Material poverty is complex, and not reducible to a single cause. Healthy, sustainable poverty alleviation ministries need to address all five root causes of material poverty—Individual brokenness, Systemic brokenness, false stories of change, broken and destructive formative practices, and demonic forces. Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at Ministry Design Principles that contribute to the kingdom community and to God’s story of change, and today we continue examining principles that equip us to replace destructive formative practices. We seek to evaluate and replace our existing practices in favor of those that empower and equip our communities.
Resuming our journey through the Ministry Design Principles, we turn our attention to replacing destructive formative practices in our fundraising, in our relationships with stakeholders, and in our marketing strategies. A ministry working to walk in the path of God’s story of change pursues practices that treat all stakeholders as a community of broken yet restored priest-rulers, people who are relying on the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to jointly steward their wide range of gifts.
For over two decades, Chalmers has partnered with Five Talents as they implement RESTORE savings group ministries in six East African countries, as well as Bolivia and Myanmar. Partnering with local churches around the world, Five Talents trains men and women living in extreme poverty to form savings groups, take out loans, and build their own businesses.
Jerilyn Sanders has been the Director of U.S. Training at the Chalmers Center for over 10 years. Her work combines two things: her love for God’s people and her passion for education that empowers the disenfranchised. In 2011, Sanders was part of the team that created and rolled out Faith & Finances, a financial education curriculum that’s a tool for holistic community ministry. She answered a few questions to share more about her work and the ways Faith & Finances is helping churches and ministries love their low-income neighbors well.
We’ve been sharing Ministry Design Principles in a series of posts (you can read last week’s here). All these principles can, in some sense, be bundled under 6 aspects of holistic poverty alleviation—1) Forming the kingdom community, 2) addressing false stories of change, 3) addressing broken practices, 4) addressing broken individuals, 5) addressing broken systems, and 6) addressing demonic forces.