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The Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College ( has as its stated purpose to "Help the Church Help the Poor Help Themselves". As well as several options for those outside the US, it also offers two web-based training modules which are available either in a distance learning format or a self-study format.

The first of these is "Foundations and Principles of Holistic Ministry", based in part on Brian Fikkert's book "When Helping Hurts" (He's a Dordt alum, by the way) and the second is "Principles and Practices of US Economic Development Ministry". These are either low cost or no cost. The First Module has, for instance, as it's various lessons 1) Holism and Poverty, 2) Relief, Rehabilitation and Development, 3) Assed-Needs Based Development and Participation, 4) Short-Term Missions and US Economic Development Strategies.


Thanks, Jeff, for mentioning When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  (Moody, 2009)   Its subtitle is "How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself".   I mention that because it's amazing how often our best intentions have "unintended negative side effects", and this book addresses that problem about as well as any I've read.

This book is readable, biblical, developmental, and comprehensive, and did I mention readable?   You don't need to be a scholar to get it.  It'll introduce you to basic understanding of what poverty is, and how the church can respond to it....   and it opens with one of the best stories I've ever read about wonderful good intentions and their surprisingly dismaying effects.

This book will also introduce you to ABCD - Asset Based Community Development.  ABCD is a tool that will sharpen all the other tools in your box.

If you've not read it, I recommend it.   And parts of it could be used to make great deacons' discussions!

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