There is no one formula for charity and poverty alleviation because God has equipped us all to fight poverty differently. Everyone has different relationships, resources, information, and strengths they can contribute.
But with all of the options to get involved in poverty alleviation, sometimes it’s hard to know what is best to do, let alone know whether or not what you are doing is actually helping.
Even though we have an obligation to think before we act, we have to keep in mind that we will learn so much just by acting. Here are some practical ideas for true charity in action that goes beyond the traditional methods.
Make Your Church the First Place People Go for Help
What if your church was the first place in your community where people went for help? Think about how that would transform your neighborhood.
I once visited a church in Louisville, Kentucky that is a great example of what it looks like to strive to transform the surrounding community both spiritually and physically.
Sojourn Church is purposely located in Shelby Park, one of the most destitute neighborhoods in Louisville. The congregation is dedicated to living intentionally in relationship with the surrounding community.
One way they do this is by offering their specific skills to help those in need.
- If someone has a toothache but does not have the health insurance to pay for it, they can go to Sojourn to set up a meeting with a dentist who attends the church and is willing to offer their services pro-bono.
- If someone needs help meeting next month’s rent payment, they can meet with a member of Sojourn who can help them plan out their finances and take them to the grocery store to show them what to buy in order to eat on $40 per week.
Baptist minister John M. Perkins said, “Effective ministries plant and build communities of believers that have a personal stake in the development of their neighbors.” That is what Sojourn Church does.
This is what it looks like to live out the gospel: sharing in the suffering and pain of others in a way that transforms the community both spiritually and physically.
Form Partnerships between Your Church and a Local Charity
If we want the church to be the first place people in the community go for help, we must have humility and realize the church cannot do everything on its own. This is why partnerships with private charities are so important.
Maybe your church can take up a second offering for a partnering organization, or volunteer on the weekends to work with a local charity, or even host an event for a local charity at your church.
One particular church-charity partnership that can be extremely effective is working with a career training program to host workshops and networking events at your church for those who are on the job market in the community. This is such an effective method because the number one way most people land the job they want is through networking.
What would our world look like if our churches were the first place the unemployed looked for help? Starting a job board, monthly networking events, or a jobs skills training program at your church may be one of the most effective ways to build community and connect people to opportunities.
Volunteer at a School Focused on Character-Centered Education
I live just a couple miles from Anacostia, one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the Washington D.C. area. Even though I live within walking distance, Anacostia might as well be a world away.
The economic and racial divides are more than obvious. The unemployment rate is 160 times the national average. President Obama called Anacostia “a forgotten neighborhood.”
Located in the heart of Anacostia, Cornerstone School provides an affordable private education with the help of donors. Their mission is not just to break the cycle of poverty through academic rigor but also through Christ-centered character development in order to transform the society in which they live.
Many of these children come from broken homes and grow up with less than inspiring role models, but education is also one of the most forming experiences of a young person’s life. Cornerstone has the unique opportunity to shape the development of the students’ whole lives.
Find a school like Cornerstone in your community or a nearby community, and volunteer as a tutor, a mentor, or for whatever need you can help meet.
Form a relationship between your church and the school for organized weekend service projects and fundraisers. Working alongside private schools in inner-cities focused on character development from a Christian perspective is a powerful and personal way to break the social causes of poverty in your community.
There are many, many other ways to put charity into action. These are just a few ideas. Share your suggestions with us in the comments section below.
Editor’s note: Read more about effective ways to empower those in need in Love Your Neighbor: Restoring Dignity, Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.
On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This article was previously published on Jan. 13, 2015 and has been updated to reflect current data.