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Brian Fikkert, President of the Chalmers Center and co-author of When Helping Hurts and Kelly Kapic, both professors at Covenant College, have just finished a Field Guide to their book Becoming Whole. The Field Guide reviews the principles the authors have developed to help poverty alleviation ministries work effectively. The principles are theologically and programmatically well thought out. Each principle is carefully explained and has helpful questions at the end of each section to facilitate group discussion.

The Field Guide tends to be more focused on ministries that churches might be engaged with internationally, though it contains examples for local application with many of the sections. It would have been more helpful if both an international and a local application had been made for each principle. However the questions are applicable for both. Here is a listing of the design principles:

Ministry Design Principles

Community (Forming the kingdom community)

 1.  Christian poverty alleviation ministries must be rooted in and lead back to the local church.

 2.  Use supportive, gospel-centered groups as much as possible.

Story (Conquering false gods and erroneous stories of change)

 3.  All the ministry stakeholders should pray without ceasing.

 4.  Narrate God’s story of change throughout life.

 5.  Integrate God’s story of change into technical training.

 6.  Use funding sources that permit God’s story of change to be integrated into technical training.

Practices (Replacing destructive formative practices)

 7.  All stakeholders should treat each other as members of a community that is jointly stewarding the King’s gifts to advance His kingdom.

 8.  The ministry’s marketing and communications should use images and messages that communicate God’s story of change.

 9.  Learn from existing best practices.

 10.  Use relief, rehabilitation, and development appropriately.

 11.  Start by focusing on assets, not needs.

 12.  Use participatory rather than blueprint approaches.

 13  All interventions should be pro-work.

 14.  Encourage all stakeholders to give sacrificially.

 15.  Foster whole-person discipleship using adult education training techniques.

Systems (Addressing broken systems)

 16.  Address broken systems by navigating existing ones, creating alternatives, and/or reforming them altogether.

People (Addressing broken people)

 17.  Help people access physical and mental health care.

 18.  Verbally invite unbelievers to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

 19.  Invite materially poor people into the church’s administration of “the ordinary means of grace”.

Spirits (Resisting demonic forces)

 20.  All the ministry’s stakeholders need to resist demonic forces by putting on the full armor of God.

The book concludes with appendices that are very helpful. I especially appreciated the recommendation of the logic model for program planning. I have adapted it below for a local context. The one in the Field Guide is more focused on an international program or partnership.

Logic Model

This format of planning encourages the planners to create a flow that builds feedback loops around each variable to make sure they achieve the desired end or impact. It is a tried and true ministry planning tool.

  • Inputs: the resources that will be used to do the work, i.e. community leadership, staff time, money, training
  • Activities: the work that will be done with the resources, i.e. asset mapping, budget counseling, tutoring
  • Outputs: the volume count of the work that will get done, i.e. 25 people trained in budget counseling, 10 students enrolled in GED program
  • Outcomes: the specific short, medium, and long term changes that are anticipated, i.e. net income is increased by 20% for 15 households
  • Impact: the ultimate benefits to be achieved, i.e. a strong community based framework is organized to seek the flourishing of relationships with God, each other, and creation.


This Field guide is a helpful study for Deacons and Outreach Committees interested in reviewing and establishing principles that can guide programs that seek to integrate word and deed. The hard work of implementation and maintaining healthy and strong relationships based on the principles is still the key. This is a great place to begin.

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