Through my studies and experience of the last few years, I am beginning to formulate some principles for helping people in material poverty. No doubt, there are future revisions and additions to be made to these thoughts, but this is where I am for now.
Dignity. People deserve to be treated with dignity because they bear the image of God and are the pinnacle of his creation and delight. Material poverty does not change that.
Disadvantage. Not everyone has an equal opportunity, concerning their material prosperity, education, vocation, and relational capital. They may need encouragement, education, and a path for change.
Humility. Nobody has it all together. Everyone has made mistakes There is no place for paternalism or Messiah complexes.
Relationships. All true ministry and service happens in the context of long-term relationships. We need to get to know the materially poor and befriend them in order to be truly helpful.
Assets. The needed assets to lift a person or community out of poverty into an improved and sustainable way of life, lie significantly within the person and community affected. Beginning with a focus on assets, rather than problems will provide a solution-oriented mindset and will honor the good things that God has placed within the person and the community
Partnerships. Solutions to personal and community needs are usually complex and will be best addressed by partnerships between individuals and community assets.
Sustainability. Long-term solutions look beyond immediate relief aid and rehabilitation; they look toward sustainable development.
Justice. Both individuals and the system that treats, and sometimes, perpetuates poverty are broken. Elements of the culture prey upon the poor. Therefore, part of our task is upholding justice and reforming the system.
This post was originally published June 3, 2010.