How We Help

How We Help Matters

Redefining Poverty

When we attempt to "help" the poor without really understanding their situation - we can often do more harm than good. While the symptoms of material poverty may look similar (a lack of food, clothing, or shelter), different types of poverty actually require very different forms of poverty alleviation.

Relief: In a situation requiring relief, the materially poor are truly unable to help themselves and need temporary, immediate aid. Relief is only appropriate after a natural or man-made crisis plunges people into a downward spiral, such as after natural disaster, medical emergency, or personal trauma.

Rehabilitation: In rehabilitation, people participate in returning their lives to pre-crisis conditions, contributing to their own situation.

Development: In development, people participate in improving their lives beyond what they have seen before. The materially poor recognize the gifts and abilities God has given them, using those gifts to His glory and to support themselves through work.

Unfortunately, many don't recognize these distinctions, and end up providing relief in situations that actually require rehabilitation or development. By giving handouts to low-income people who are capable of helping themselves, churches and ministries contribute to the materially poor's sense of shame and undermine their capacity to work.

Source:  Chalmers Center - See their website for additional teaching videos on this topic.