Do No Harm: Learning More


There are so many different avenues that we could take when seeking to help those in need and there are so many thoughts and opinions about it all that sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed and confused; however, I have learned that I can’t stay in that place of confusion. I must be obedient to God’s call to love and serve the poor so therefore I must study and learn and ask the Lord to reveal to me what He would have me do and how He would have me respond. I pray that is your response too – to dig in and ask the tough questions, to learn and grow, and not just bury your head in the sand and let people walk on by.

The following are just a few of the great resources that I have studied that I hope will help you learn even more about the world of poverty and help you learn how you should respond when you meet that new friend on the street.  


When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert 

This book is also a 6 week group study that you can do with a small group or on your own. You can also access Right Now Media (which is a GREAT resource in general) for the videos or on the web.

Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton 

This is a very similar read to When Helping Hurts but a little stronger! They tend to lean toward the idea that “all charity is toxic” which I believe is not always true in every situation. I mean you can’t “throw the baby out with the bath water” as my grandma used to say.

Seeking Shalom *this is an ECourse by Focused Community Strategies in Atlanta, GA

This is an excellent class that explains poverty and how to work with those in poverty pretty well. This group is connected with Robert Lupton, the author of Toxic Charity, so they follow many of the same principles. It’s explained well though and I always love being able to interact with others and chat about what I’m learning! (I’m weird like that.. ha)

Bridges out of Poverty or Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne

Ruby Payne is an educator and shares about the impacts of poverty in the classroom and while this is “different” than poverty that we see on the streets, it helps us understand how poverty is effecting us across the board. It’s a great general discussion on poverty.

Loving our Neighbor by Beth Templeton 

Beth Templeton is the former director of United Ministries, based here in Greenville, SC. I had the great privilege of meeting with her before I began Refuge and gained some valuable insight and wisdom from her. There is also a 6 week video series that they have produced  that explains poverty and how to work with those in poverty well.

The list could go on and on of books and classes that you could take as you learn about helping those in poverty. What resources could you share with us so that we can learn more?


More than any wisdom that you have gained from books or videos though, I want to challenge and remind you to do the following:

  1. Ask God how He would have you respond in each specific situation and be obedient to the Holy Spirit. 
  2. Read His word and see what He has to teach us about poverty and loving our neighbor. 

Above all, We must obey the Lord when he places people in our path and help them as He would – loving and serving them well. I pray that we will do just that!


For our Spartanburg friends, I will be posting a list of local resources soon to help you as you meet and get to know our friends.


Do No Harm: Knowing When


Sweet young mama sitting on the curb near where you parked your car at the grocery store holding her baby, looking rather dirty and tired and weary…

Old man, scruffy face, wearing old dirty clothes approaches you as you walk downtown asking if you can just spare a few dollars for him to grab a sandwich…

How do we know when to help… what do we do? Often times, we either turn our heads and run, hoping they didn’t see us and that no one else saw us go right on by. And sometimes we stop, pretend we are in a hurry, reaching for change to throw their way… Either response is not enough.  Helping someone requires much wisdom, patience, and time. It’s not a quick fix and if you are reading this with a desire for a quick answer, well… sorry to disappoint ya. 

When we view needy people in light of our own brokenness, which, we learned about in the last post, we should first realize that they are really no different than we are. They are loved by a Heavenly Father just as you are. But, we have to start somewhere and knowing when to help is hard to discern. I believe that it begins by getting to know them personally. Ask them their name. Ask them their story. Take time to get to know them. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned through serving at Refuge, a homeless ministry at First Baptist Spartanburg, is that they really just want someone to listen to them. Someone who cares enough to take 10 minutes. 

A crucial step in understanding poverty and how to best help is to know where that person is in their poverty. Are they in a midst of a real crisis? Or is this an always ongoing or chronic need that with long term help and encouragement they could be in a different place. Steve Fikkert, author or When Helping Hurts, shares that there are three stages of development: 

  1. Crisis – This is someone who possibly just had a house fire, or went through a hurricane. The crisis just happened and if we don’t step in to deliver support it will be critical for them. 
  2. Rehabilitation – This is someone who has been restored back to their previous pre-crisis state; however, they still need support to move forward and onward. 
  3. Development – This is someone who with the support of community and shared wisdom, they can begin to make decisions and changes for their future. They are climbing back up the mountain after their crisis. This stage is where the majority of those in poverty are. 

Those in the last two stages actually need very little financial handout but sadly this is what we often spend time doing instead of getting to the heart of the matter and helping those in the last two stages. When we offer handouts to those in stage three (development) we can often do more harm than good. We become a crutch for them and don’t allow them to feel a real need for change or experience the joy in achieving and excelling! 

My motto in serving others is “never do for someone else what they could and should do for themselves.  When we allow someone to make decisions and steps in the right direction, we are empowering them and not enabling them.  This is a LONG process. It’s not a process that happens in the parking lot or on the street downtown. 

So who can you get to know today? Who can you begin to walk alongside of through the development process, encouraging them and helping them to make wise decisions? This way is a lot harder but the rewards are amazing when you see that sweet friend come out on the other side – fully restored and confident in who God created them to be. 

And when you pass that sweet mama or older man, stop and offer to pray for them, ask them their name, encourage them to seek help and assistance from various resources or begin a deep friendship with them and walk with them over time. Don’t just walk by them… 

Knowing when to help is sometimes hard to discern. If there is something that you are struggling to understand from this post, the next post will have resources where you can get more answers and learn more about how to help those in poverty, or send us a comment or message and ask! We only learn through encouraging and asking one another! 

Don’t miss out on our previous post in the Do No Harm Series:

Be Prepared

We’re all Poor



Do No Harm: We’re All Poor


You’ve met the sweet young mom standing on the corner with her child and given her a blessing bag. What do we do from there? Well, let’s back up even before you roll down your car window. Before we can even begin to work with those in poverty, we must understand a crucial truth.  We must spend some time looking inward. We are all created by a loving God but we are all poor and broken in some way. 

Yes, you read that right…. you are poor and broken. How’s that for a great way to start out the second part of the Do No Harm Series.   But it is true and sometimes, as we all know, the truth hurts. But I’ve also read that the truth can set us free… (John 8:32)

While their poverty is mostly visible for all the world to see, my poverty is usually hidden and disguised well (most of the time). Steve Fikert, the author of When Helping Hurts explains it through 4 broken Relationships that we each have. 

  1. We all have a broken relationship with God (thanks Adam & Eve).
  2. We all have a broken relationship with self.
  3. We all have a broken relationship with others. 
  4. We all have a broken relationship with creation.  

So where are you broken? Where are you poor? We can’t begin to help and serve and love others in a helpful and gospel centered way until we acknowledge our own poverty. 

Spend some time today seeking to acknowledge and understand your own poverty. 

If you have a broken relationship in one (or more of these areas), how can you seek to restore it today? 

If you missed the previous post on Being Prepared, take a minute to read it here!