Tag Archives: Poor

When Not Helping Hurts

10398604_75131031835_8299277_n[1]Listen, I am like you. I wanna help the poor. I wanna help the Urban poor specifically.

But I also read “When Helping Hurts” and “Toxic Charity”. While I loved those books and was extremely challenged after reading them, I felt somewhat how you feel afterwards.

1. I felt discouraged about the amount of work I have put into serving the poor.

And I also felt

2. Confused about the direction I should go now in my ministry, not desiring to have a toxic or hurtful ministry.

Listen friend, this is a short but sweet call to some of us who needed a kick in the butt from those books but also for grace that we need to continue on after we have found out that we weren’t doing it right.

1. I like you felt discouraged about thinking through on whether or not my past ministries among the poor had been hurtful or wasteful. When I say discouraged, I’m talking about a discouragement that kept me from wanting to strategize ever again on this stuff thinking that I was gonna screw up others lives.

But God has done a mighty work. In time of doing Urban ministry for some years and learning these lessons on the ground, I have submitted my past work under the hand of a sovereign God who works IN SPITE of us. I felt like I was the worst for a while. I was down and out. But God revealed to me through his scriptures that he has ultimate control and has had it the whole time.

The work done in the past he may have used to impact many people in ways I will never know until heaven. I don’t need to be discouraged about the things done in the past. While I learn my lesson in realizing that there are better ways to do it, I also acknowledge that there is a sovereign God who may have used those things for his glory, and I can peacefully move forward to a new stage of ministry.

2. Confused on where I should go now in my ministry.

I HATE screwing things up. There is a lot of psychology to all of that, but my initial reaction to WHH/TC was nothing. Doing nothing. Not wanting to mess up so not doing anything.

In time I have realized that that is the wrong reaction to all of this. Don’t be afraid to work among the poor. Don’t be afraid to reach out within an Urban community. Just do it with care. Take all that you have learned in thinking through these tough questions of concern for the poor, and let your work be intentional and well thought out. But by no means, Don’t quit working.

I have thoroughly enjoyed ministering within Urban communities. I have learned a million things and screwed up a million times, but as well, I have noticed how simply my being there can be good for the community. Don’t be discouraged but be ENCOURAGED that Gods hand may have worked in spite of strategy mistakes you made in the past but also in that you have learned from those mistakes and can minister in a more effective way.

Disclaimer: I LOVE the books, When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity. PLEASE read both. Just afterwards, consider this article.

During the Holiday’s, don’t hurt the poor…A Call for Pastor’s and Church Leaders

Thanksgiving and Christmas are quickly approaching. It’s an exciting time of the year. Imagining gifts, food, friends and family. It’s a great time for many people. Many families have different traditions that involve some type of service to the poor. As well many churches and ministries have programs that are centralized on giving freely to the poor.

homelessforchristmas.comI have helped and orchestrated many different gift drives and turkey giveaways. I’ve always enjoyed being apart of them. It makes me feel good to give to people who need it. But one thing I have noticed is that I walk in to these events feeling excited and leave feeling somewhat uneasy.

I remember how frustrated I was finding out that many of the recipients of the gift drive were 3rd and 4th generations of recipients. I would carry Turkey’s and christmas gifts to brand new cars that caused me to wonder how someone in need could have a way nicer car then myself. I would experience the chaos and division seen between the “haves” and “have nots”. I started leaving these events more disturbed then encouraged. Then I would goto food pantries and clothing closets and I would leave feeling the same way as the holiday give-aways, disturbed.

Collecting rooms full of toys and games that were to be given to the poor feels good.  Giving a turkey out for Thanksgiving seems nice. Handing out canned goods causes many to feel happy about themselves. But eventually one must look at this large collection of belongings and question who recieves the glory in these programs. Is it God or is it all the people who have defined their generosity with this pile of things.

What is it like for the father who comes home to find his kids have toys for christmas and he didn’t do anything about it. He feels shame. He feels somewhat bitter about those who gave the toys and he is disgraced.

I am not against christmas gifts. I am all for getting gifts for my family and helping see other families have the capacity to do so. My problem is that in the process of our charity, we many times hurt those we are trying to help.

Pastors and Church Leaders, as our churches begin to use this time of year to show compassion to the less fortunate, we must ask a few questions.

1) Is our program or event weakening those we are serving?

2)Is it fostering dishonest relationships?

3) Is it deepening dependency?

4) Is it eroding recipients’ work ethic?

(Questions from Bob Lupton’s “Toxic Charity”)

I would like to challenge Pastors and Church Leaders to start asking these hard questions and have a Vision to do greater things. Greater doesn’t mean neccesarily spend more money. Envision reaching the poor in the community spending less money while putting in more time for relationships. I know, you’re salivating. This is what pastor’s love. I’d love to see churches using their resources to serve the poor in ways that build healthy relationships and not rob the dignity of those who already can feel weak.

It takes a decision to change things. Start asking the hard questions about whether or not our program is effective. Then after that start brainstorming about ways to do programs that are relationship focused. Seek to do things that empower the poor. Walk alongside them and strategize for them to become more self sustaining. Help them purchase gifts. Help them purchase turkeys.

“Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.”

-Toxic Charity

For more information, Check out:
Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert