Help Poor People Help Themselves
- Thursday, May 17, 2007
* Move into the community you’re called to serve. Recognize that you can minister much more effectively to a certain neighborhood if you actually live there yourself. Don’t just commute from the outside; move in and build close relationships with your neighbors. If your church is in a poor neighborhood, reach out to the people who live in the immediate area and focus on them instead of building bigger parking lots for commuters.
* Encourage diversity. Help poor people move from being isolated in ghettos and barrios to becoming part of a diverse community, made up of neighbors with mixed incomes and backgrounds. Ask God to give you and others in the community a clear vision to work toward, and clearly communicate that vision. Work with city government officials, neighborhood leaders, and others to develop real estate, design affordable housing in the midst of more upscale housing, and help poor people obtain fair loans and good insurance so they can move from paying rent to owning their own homes. Be patient, understanding that building a diverse neighborhood is a long-term process. Invest focused and sustained effort into communicating with the others in the community and organizing shared activities. Make your love for your neighbors practical and visible. Help people in the community reconcile to God and each other.
* Work wisely with local churches, charities, and social service agencies. Before volunteering with them, don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Will my investment make any real difference?”, “Am I really helping or is this just to make me feel good?”, “Will this be a personally meaningful experience?”, “Does this ministry really get at the root causes?”, “Will you value my time?”, “Do you just want my money or do you really want me involved?”, “Is the ministry cost-effective?”, “Are you open to change if I offer solutions or improvements?”, “Will you deal with me responsibly and follow through on your commitments?” and “Will I get feedback on how the mission is going?”. If you decide to volunteer, make sure that you’re contributing more than it costs the staff to train and support you in your work. Share your contacts with staff members to help them have greater impact in the community. Make a long-term commitment to serve, keeping in mind that quick fixes don’t last. Frequently take stock of your volunteer work to ask yourself how your ministry does or doesn’t strengthen the fabric of your community and enhances its capacity to become more self-sufficient.
* Build supportive relationships with the police. Invite the local police to meet with you to discuss how you can support each other to try to rid a bad neighborhood of its crime. Make pacts with your neighbors to report crimes promptly and honestly instead of hiding perpetrators out of fear. When police need witnesses to testify in court, be willing to go. Do all you can to help transform the neighborhood you serve into a place of courage and trust.
* Ask yourself key questions before putting plans in action. Make sure your strategies are focused well by asking: “Is capable, indigenous leadership behind the effort?”, “Is the plan neighborhood-specific?” “Does it focus on one and only one target community?”, “Is the effort comprehensive?”, “Is the primary objective the ultimate self-sufficiency of the neighborhood?”, “Does the plan emanate from local churches and/or people of faith?”, “Does the plan protect against displacement or concentration of lower-income residents?”, “Does the plan promote interdependency rather than continued dependency?”, “Does the plan attract, retain and/or develop indigenous leadership in the community?”, “Does the plan attract new achieving neighbors into the community?”, “Does the plan utilize grants and nonprofits as catalysts for development that can eventually reduce the need for external subsidies?” and “Does the plan lead to economic neighborhood viability, as measured by its ability to attract and harness market forces?”.
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