Helping Without Hurting: Getting Started


When Helping Hurts provides an eye-opening look at how ministry to the poor can actually be hurting instead of helping them. The new edition of the book helps churches get past paralysis and into outreach.

When Helping Hurts has become a classic book for those who work with the poor or in missions. It's been the subject of a blog post and a webinar here on the Network. I have heard the authors speak a couple of times now at conferences and workshops. The one question that keeps coming up, both at the conferences and when I talk with those who have read the book, is "What do we do now?"

I had the chance to ask Steve Corbett, one of the authors, about this last summer. They have been surprised at the popularity of the book, but have also heard that churches are getting paralyzed, worried that if they do anything they will be hurting instead of helping! To address this phenomenon, a second edition was recently released. It includes a new preface, foreword, a new chapter called "Getting Started on Helping Without Hurting," and a new appendix, "The Community Organizing Process in North America."

I attended a webinar with the authors that gave a preview of the principles shared in the Getting Started chapter.

I think my favorite principle that they shared is "Learn the context as you go. You do not have to know everything to start the process!" Surely I'm not the only one who does this (research things to death before getting started, sometimes in lieu of doing something). 

Also, one of the advantages of being part of a denomination is that there are organizations to help you put the principles into practice; you are not alone. World Renew has many years of experience and can help you navigate your overseas ministry. In terms of helping the poor locally, Diaconal Ministries Canada and Communities First Association are both recommended by the authors of When Helping Hurts.

If you've read When Helping Hurts, how has it informed your church's outreach ministry? 

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The second edition is an improvement. Chalmer's is learning from the feedback and addressing the readers concerns.

Hi Wendy:

Great article and GREAT book. I also was able to attend an all day seminar last fall with both of the authors. I really appreciate their desire to help churches think differently about how we help others. Diaconal Ministries of Canada and CFA are both great resources.  Volunteers In Service (VIS) is also a resource for the deacons and through our work with them, we hear about the concern of just meeting immediate needs. VIS spends time meeting with deacons and having discussions on what next steps would look like and how to begin the process of thinking of benevolence beyond the immediate need. VIS believes that being in relationship with someone is at the core of helping. Thanks for the article. 

Community Builder

I'm so glad that VIS is able to help Grand Rapids-area churches take the next steps. Not everyone is ready to jump in to the Communities First methodology. Those that do find it very rewarding - watch for an upcoming Network blog!