When Helping Hurts,
by Steve Corbett &
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: 2009; April 20, 2012
Source: Borrowed a friend's copy.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Churches and individual Christians typically have faulty assumptions about the causes of poverty, resulting in the use of strategies that do considerable harm to poor people and themselves. This book is a must read to help create an effective and holistic ministry to the poor.
The book covers essential steps like assessing a situation to see if relief, rehabilitation, or development is the best response to a situation. The authors explain the advantages of an "asset based" approach rather than a "needs based" approach. Short term mission efforts are addressed and economic development strategies appropriate for North American and international contexts are presented, including microenterprise development.
Questions at the beginning and end of each chapter assist in applying the material. This expanded version includes a new chapter to further explain how to apply the book's principles to your situation.
When Helping Hurts explores how current methods of helping the poor might do more harm than good to everyone involved. They also explore methods that can be more helpful long-term.
The authors believe the Bible's explanation of what's wrong with this world. They recognize and explain how a person's worldview can be a part of what is keeping them in poverty, so it's essential to teach a correct worldview based on the Bible for lasting change. (For example, if you worship rats and therefore won't stop them from eating your stored grain, then teaching you ways to grow more grain won't really help.)
I came to some of their same conclusions long ago. They explain how poverty is not solely a lack of possessions or money, though that is a result of the problem. You need to take the time to understand the culture and the situation rather than assuming you know what they need. It's about listening--about relationships and mindsets. It's not something you can fix with a handful of money and a few hours of your time.
They talk about the problems with current methods of poverty alleviation and how other approaches work better. They explain how to apply these principles in various situations, though they give the most detail in their American poor outreach examples. They talk about what we've done wrong--the authors, too--but how not getting things perfect shouldn't stop us from trying. They do talk about the problems with short-term mission trips and similar methods, but they also explain how these methods might be modified to create more positive, long-term impact for everyone involved.
Overall, I'd recommend that everyone read this book just so that they can get be exposed to other ways of thinking. I'd especially recommend it to those involved with missions and outreaches who are open to trying new approaches or to considering that there might be better ways to help the poor.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.