When Helping Hurts: Part 8

“Many North American churches and ministries are reconsidering the approaches they have been taking toward the materially poor.  Many are realizing they have been applying “relief” inappropriately and want to shift toward “development” in their work at home and abroad.” – When Helping Hurts

The way people approach the materially poor needs to change.  In the South (where I live), there are long-held and long-taught ways to deal with the poor.  I can comfortably say almost none of them are spectacular.  There surely isn’t a “let’s find a way to help them long-term” mentality.  I can’t imagine it is much different in a majority of the US.  I know this approach is formed out of ignorance and exacerbation of not knowing what to do.

It is extremely unfortunate we don’t recognize the indicators of when someone is ready for a change.  Additionally, we fail to give those people the PROPER support during their change.  All of this stems from a lack of understanding but the material to educate exists and we should be more intentional about seeking it out.

Here are some great points made in Chapter 10:

  • Because each situation is different, there is not one-size-fits-all formula for jump-starting development work.
  • We need to foster triggers for human change.
    • We need to walk beside someone while they face a crisis (not rescue them).
    • We need to allow the burden of the status quo to become so overwhelming they want to pursue change.
    • We need to introduce a new way of doing or seeing things that could improve their lives.
  • Development is a process of ongoing change in which people move closer to being in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.
  • Ultimately, lasting, positive change is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit, so praying for change is the central tool in the development process.
  • Change begins when something trigger the individual or group to reflect upon their current situation and to think about a possible future situation that they would prefer.
  • There are a host of obstacle that can get in the way of significant change, and a major part of the development process is coming alongside of materially poor individuals or groups to help them remove obstacles to change that they are incapable of removing on their own.
  • One of the most significant obstacles to change is a lack of supportive people.
  • We need to mobilize supportive people.
  • Typically, the biggest challenge ministries face is an insufficient number of people who are willing to invest the time and energy that it takes to walk through time with a needy individual or family.
  • Most people get job through their social networks.  They learn of job openings and get referrals from friends who are already employed in the company or organization.  Those of us who have access to such social networks are typically unaware of how important those networks really are to our success.
  • We need to look for an early, recognizable success.
  • To motivate people, participation typically must be accompanied by something else: early and recognizable success toward the goals that the participants deem to be important.
  • We need to learn the context as we go.
  • The speed of intervention must not be so fast that we do not take the time to listen well, that we fail to identify the gifts and resources of materially poor individuals or communities, or that we take charge of all aspects of the intervention.
  • Having the attitude of a humble learner throughout the process is far more important than having comprehensive knowledge at the start of it.
  • Regardless of how individuals or communities ended up in a bad situation, faithful stewardship on their part requires them to take whatever actions they can do to use their gifts and resources to effect change.
  • Faithfulness on our part requires us to do what we can to help them remove the obstacles that they cannot move completely by themselves.

We are afraid to feel the tension of being around those who we deem to be “less fortunate”.  It is uncomfortable and we want to find the fastest way to relieve that tension.  We give money or we walk away.  Anything to feel better.

Stop trying to fix it to make yourself feel better.  That feeling is not a problem to solve.  It is a tension to manage.  Live in it.   Become comfortable in it.  Lean into it and see if you’re not better for it.

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