When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself

by Steve Corbett

Other authorsJohn Perkins (Foreword), David Platt (Foreword), Brian Fikkert
Paperback, 2014

Status

Available

Call number

LIV 026 ENG

Publication

Moody Publishers (2014), Edition: New Edition, Paperback, 288 pages

Description

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 "asset based" approach rather than a "needs based" approach. Short term mission efforts are addressed and microenterprise development (MED) is explored. --from publisher description

User reviews

LibraryThing member gdill
Excellent book that totally transformed my thinking about serving amongst an impoverished people group. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive before reading this book. I thought it was going to be justification about how not to serve the poor. Instead, it was quite the opposite. How to truly serve the poor in a way that will provide a long term solution rather than simply providing a temporary fix.

Although there are many good points made throughout the book, by far there are two recurring themes throughout the book:

First, rather than coming into any given situation as a well-educated, know-it-all, westerner who has all the answers and can teach the poor how to properly live, we should instead come alongside them and figure out how best to alleviate poverty with them. We need to eliminate the "God complex" from ourselves and find ways to assist, empower, and enable them to carry out the project and proceed.

Secondly, we must not be the ones to carry out the project ourselves. We must delegate to the poor and allow them to take ownership of the project themselves. Allowing them to take ownership allows them to take greater responsibility and protection for the project. Furthermore, if the project succeeds, the locals can rejoice over their own accomplishments rather than praising the foreign missionaries. And, should the project fail, the locals can come together to determine what went wrong and learn how to improve upon the project.

However, I digress. The principles outlined in this book are best for what I believe are long term attempts to alleviate poverty. Even though this book discourages "free handouts" to the poor, sometime the best way to show the love of Christ is to simply provide a meal to someone who has no food, give away a pair of shoes to someone who doesn't have any, help provide shelter to someone who has no home. I don't think we should totally dismiss these things especially if the intention is to show the love of Christ to the poor. But, I agree with the author in that this should not be a recurring theme in addressing poverty, certainly not the solution.

My family serves amongst the Roma of Albania (an impoverished people group) and this book has truly changed the way I do ministry amongst them. Before I came here I thought I knew how to do ministry with the poor. I was wrong thanks to this book who set me on the right course. I highly recommend this book for anyone who lives, works, or serves amongst the poor. And, I highly recommend this book for anyone who is considering doing a short term missions trip to an impoverished people group.
… (more)
LibraryThing member mreed61
The thing that is helpful to me about this book so far is that this is what I do - help the homeless and poor. It's one thing to give a man a fish to eat for a day. It's another thing to teach a man to fish so that he will eat for a lifetime. I will be going through a course that uses this book as its essential text. It is very helpful, even if a tough read.… (more)
LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
At my last church, we had an administrative assistant who handled all requests for help in consultation with the senior pastor. It wasn't until I moved to Bracebridge that I realized how difficult it is to help people in need in a way that genuinely benefits them. It's easy to allocate a gift card from a benevolent fund—it's much harder to truly help.

When Helping Hurts is a solid resource for churches developing a benevolent policy. Corbett and Fikkert not only examine the needs of the materially poor but also the heart issues of the givers.

One of the most helpful parts of this book was Corbett & Fikkert's distinctions between the type of aid needed:

Relief: Immediate short-term aid to stop the bleeding.
Rehabilitation: Working with people (not for them) to help their situation.
Development: A more broad based look at the causes of the poverty.
How many times have we thrown relief at a situation that requires much more labour-intensive (and rewarding) rehabilitation?

This book puts poverty in its theological context and will help you and your church to develop sound benevolent and mission policy.
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LibraryThing member tabascofromgudreads
Well, i had just written a thorough review but my computer crashed and completely lost it just seconds before saving it, so .... I will just tell you that this is a very good book!! Recommended to anyone who wants to get a deeper understanding on how to really alleviate poverty in any community, and the mistakes to avoid while trying to do that, with a useful series of examples of "charity gone wrong".
The book goes beyond the simple "don't give them fish, teach them how to fish" concept.
… (more)
LibraryThing member GAW
Very helpful differentiation of relief, rehabilitation, and development. A helpful addition to this book would be a discussion about how to take existing, flawed efforts (especially long-term projects) to a health or healthier level without hurting everyone involved in the project.
LibraryThing member yourotherleft
When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert is a Christian perspective on helping the poor that might well stand to benefit anyone, Christian or otherwise, who has tried to help someone they perceive to be less well-off then themselves. In today's world where the prevailing method of helping people is an impersonal rubber stamp of "I built X many houses and schools" or "I helped get food to X many children" that serves the giver more than the recipient, Corbett and Fikkert ask us to consider spending the time necessary to tailor our help to a community's needs and, even more, incorporate those being helped into the process so that they will be empowered to seek and maintain lasting change for their communities even after the outside help leaves. Corbett and Fikkert's book wisely advises its readers to always consider themselves to be just as needy in one way or another as the people they are helping thus avoiding the almost-inevitable God complex, the unwelcome guest that always comes along with our better intentions of helping people who have been rendered unable to help themselves. When Helping Hurts is a definite must-read for anyone who wants to create lasting and empowering benefit from the help they have to offer those less fortunate.… (more)
LibraryThing member Steve777
Excellent book. Asks some very hard questions that need to be answered. I just went through the questions in the chapter on short term missions with the national host of the yearly short term missions trips I lead to Papua, Indonesia, and found they generated very important discussion.
LibraryThing member sc4
If you are a minister or leader in a local church, you need to read this book.
LibraryThing member dmmagic
I was interested in the subject conveyed in the title: when can trying to help people instead cause harm? This book answers that to some extent and gave me a lot to think about. But as someone who isn't interested in being a missionary, starting a micro-finance or loan program, or leading anything of that nature, its value was low for me. I gave this five stars because it was good, but there were really only ~2 chapters that were beneficial for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member heritagechurch
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.
… (more)
LibraryThing member tabascofromgudreads
Well, i had just written a thorough review but my computer crashed and completely lost it just seconds before saving it, so .... I will just tell you that this is a very good book!! Recommended to anyone who wants to get a deeper understanding on how to really alleviate poverty in any community, and the mistakes to avoid while trying to do that, with a useful series of examples of "charity gone wrong".
The book goes beyond the simple "don't give them fish, teach them how to fish" concept.
… (more)

Language

Original publication date

2009

Physical description

288 p.; 6 inches

ISBN

0802409989 / 9780802409980
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