Something’s off. We feel it and we think part of the reason you’re here is you feel it too. The faith community has poured countless resources, volunteer hours, and money into community outreach and engagement. Yet, if this is the case, why are so many families still stuck in the cycle of poverty?

To answer this question, we need to start not with the current solution to poverty, but with an expanded definition. We often define poverty as a lack of things, be it housing, income, or food. So, believing that’s the solution, we provide those resources—financial assistance, groceries, and other tangible goods. However, research clearly shows that poverty isn’t just a lack of resources but also a lack of relationships[1].

Think about the last time you (or someone you know) were looking for a job. Where did you start? You most likely didn’t reach out immediately to a professional service but started with who you knew. Whether coworkers, friends, or family, you had a support network that was there to encourage you and connect you to opportunities. On average, research shows that 25% of jobs are obtained through a social connection, not a job listing[2]. So, without this support network, people only have access to 75% of jobs available. This is just one example among hundreds of why having a relational ‘safety net’ is vital for every family.

In order to exit poverty, families need access to both resources and relationships. Providing resources only addresses the symptoms of poverty, but does not uproot the underlying causes that created the need in the first place. This is why those of us providing resources burn out and get confused and disappointed when the same families come year after year to receive assistance.

We truly believe that there is a better way forward. One where we create healthy relationships with those in our communities. One where we don’t just provide poverty alleviation but poverty elimination. And while this is good news for our community, it is also good news for our churches. Burnout isn’t a necessary side effect of engaging in this work. There is a way forward where we pursue this vision with joy and abundance, creating the long-term impacts that lead to thriving families and flourishing communities.

[1] Corbett, Steve and Fikkert, Brian. When Helping Hurts. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009.

[2] Gaskell, Adi. (2017 Sept 11) Using Social Networks To Advance Your Career. Forbes.


Post By Megan Ginn, Neighboring Project Manager