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Intersection of Life and Faith

Reach out to the Poor

  • 1998 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Reach out to the Poor
The poor are among us, in close proximity to our congregations, and in some instances members of our congregations. Some lack employment and a place to live. Some live on welfare or on unemployment benefits. Others are the working poor, those people who are employed but don't earn enough to meet all the expenses of living.

The efforts of many congregations to help the poor have focused on supporting the efforts of separate agencies or inner-city missions, such as The Salvation Army. Most churches, however, do not particularly think about incorporating the poor into membership in their congregations. We are more often focused on ministries to the poor than with the poor.

  1. Always follow-up when people break patterns of regular attendance at church. That can be a warning sign for a broad range of problems, including economic difficulties. The earlier the church knows something is wrong, the sooner it can provide effective help.

  2. When people connected with your church have financial problems, don't assume that public and private agencies will take care of the problem. There are gaps in the social services available. In the church, we should be prepared to do all that we can to help people achieve economic independence and meaningful lives. Establish emergency food pantries and expense funds, as well as encouraging individual efforts of members.

  3. When ministering to the pooroutside the congregation, make a special effort to treat people with dignity and respect. Those who are poor can quickly lose their self-respect in a society that seems to equate human worth with economic worth.

  4. Recognize that the poor are not fundamentally different than the rest of us. Those who are poor do not want to be poor and do not want to be dependent on others. They crave friendship, love, reasonable comfort in their physical surroundings, meaningful work, and opportunities to help other people.

  5. Be open to opportunities to share your faith and invite them to become involved in the life of the church. Non-members are not likely to attend church unless invited.

  6. Reflect on your church's attitude on personal appearance. The poor cannot afford expensive clothes. Consider their feelings when they enter your building. Encourage members to dress in less formal or costly clothing.

  7. Consider providing more than material assistance to those who are poor. Use mentors to build relationships with the poor without condescension or judgment. They can quietly arrange for donations of clothing or furniture. They may also help in securing employment, or give advice on financial management, or resume preparation.

  8. See the poor as partners in ministry. Include their insight when planning outreach programs to the poor. Be alert for their substantial spiritual gifts.

From Reaching the Forgotten by Steve Clapp, Julie Seibert Berman, Pat Helman, and Cindy Hollenberg Snider. Copyright (c) 1997 by Lifequest. Used by permission of Steve Clapp, Christian Community, Fort Wayne, Ind., 219-744-6510.

Steve Clapp has authored or co-authored more than 30 books, including Promising Results, Peer Evangelism, The Ministerial Competency Report, and Positioning Ministry for Success.Julie Seibert Berman is involved in the life of a local congregation and has co-authored four books with Steve, including Repairing Christian Lifestyles.Pat Helman created the Joyful Scribes greeting card and poster company and has authored numerous books including At Home in the World.Cindy Hollenberg Snider has a master's degree in peace studies from Notre Dame and has worked in El Salvador. She is the co-author of Creating Quality in Ministry.