by Shawn Duncan
‘Tis the season for kicking bad habits and resolving to live healthier. I don’t know what you are thinking for 2017, but a little less queso might be a good idea for me next year!
As you look at making changes not only in your personal life, but in your ministry as well, I would like to offer three steps for kicking the bad habits that make charity ineffective.
Make it mutual.
One major reason why efforts to serve those experiencing poverty are either ineffective or harmful is the lack of authentic relationships. The common paradigm has one group driving across town to bring resources to a different community who appears to lack those resources. This exchange is often done in a transactional, rather than relational, way.
The further the distance there is between those experiencing poverty and those who seek to help, the more ineffective and harmful the efforts will be. It is in the context of kinship - of true belonging - that superficial distinctions fade away between the “have” and “have nots,” those in need and those in plenty.
When we collapse this distance, mutual transformation begins to take place and real solutions to real issues become possible. If you are looking to kick the habits of unhealthy charity, start by building meaningful relationships.
Engage the mind.
Another bad habit that harms charity is to engage the heart without engaging the mind. When we see painful symptoms of material poverty, we are moved to compassion and want to act on behalf of others. This is a good and healthy thing. It is a part of God’s own image stamped on us.
But compassion for the effects of a problem does not mean we have the ability to solve the underlying causes. Charity is too often content alleviating the symptoms of material poverty without working to disrupt what causes them.
If you are looking to kick the habits of ineffective charity, work to understand what is causing the symptoms and leverage the right skills and expertise to deal with it.
Start Seeking Shalom.
The final piece of advice I’d offer is an unapologetic plug for something we at FCS are super excited about: Seeking Shalom!
You can’t change charity on your own. You need to form a committed and strategic coalition of people who will work together to shift the paradigm in your community. An incredible resource to lead your community into this vital conversation is Seeking Shalom, an online curriculum we have developed that disrupts the traditional charity paradigm, builds a robust biblical framework for understanding poverty, and teaches five core principles for healthy and transformative charity.
Seeking Shalom offers the insights of over 30 thought leaders. We interviewed biblical scholars, those experiencing poverty, innovative practitioners, authors, and community development veterans. By experiencing six compelling online sessions, you will be equipped with the resources needed to change charity for good in 2017.