We want to help people. We want to do the right thing, the good thing, the Godly thing. Sometimes it's hard to know what that is. We might question where to begin. Often we discover that we need to learn how to help well. That's totally okay and completely normal.
A great resource that seeks to teach us how to help well is the book "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor... Or Yourself." This book is rich with practical examples, theories and paradigms that all work to show us why we think the way we think, and how we might want to change that (and our actions) to equip, enable and empower the poor around us. Put into practise it will transform how you do ministry.
I don't want to give away all the juicy details, but I do suggest you check it out. (You can view parts of it on Google books.)
The one thing I did want to highlight from the book is the concept of ABCD - Asset Based Community Development. Last week's blog was an invitation to rethink how we (as deacons/churches) handle the needs of those less fortunate, particularly during the holidays, and how we might love and support the poor around us. (Hint: think authentic relationships.) ABCD is a valuable tool we can use to bring dignity to the people we are serving, by affirming (and revealing) the reality that God has provided them with a variety of gifts.
ABCD starts from a positive place of acknowledging that everyone has something to offer. In the book the authors put it this way "ABCD... asks them to consider from the outset 'What's right with you? What gifts has God given you that you can use to improve your life and that of your neighbours?" (pg. 125) That's a really different approach than many of us are used to. This question already requires that we are building relationships with the people we are helping. We aren't just handing them the gift card they asked for, we aren't randomly dropping a food hamper at their door and we aren't providing an abundance of toys for their family Christmas. There is no room for a pseudo-saviour complex in this model, which, if we're honest, might be hard to give up. We love the thrill of the rescue, and pridefully reinforcing an idea of superiority because of what we can do.
When we start by helping people to recognize what they have, we are better able to come alongside of them, building a relationship of equality, journeying together, and when the time is right we will hopefully be able to assist them in meaningful ways, because ABCD doesn't deny the fact that need exists, it just doesn't start there.