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When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  6,603 Ratings  ·  667 Reviews
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. Don't let this happen to you, your ministry or ministries you help fund! A must read for anyone who works with the poor or in missions, When Helping Hurts provides foundational concep ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published June 24th 2009 by Moody Publishers (first published 2009)
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Lydia Lee I've read both. Walking with the Poor provides a helpful framework in understanding poverty, while When Helping Hurts expands on that with practical…moreI've read both. Walking with the Poor provides a helpful framework in understanding poverty, while When Helping Hurts expands on that with practical examples. Am grateful for the authors for articulating my current struggles as someone involved in transformational development work and for helping me understand why I'm struggling so. (less)

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John Martindale
Jan 25, 2011 John Martindale rated it it was amazing
Recommended to John by: Pastor Bynum
A very good book, though it is messing up my world. Their chapter on why short term mission trips are typically more harmful then good, was unsettling (Especially since my job is to host short term mission teams), I disagree with them on some points (for example, they claimed short term trips don't result in more full time missionaries, but I am a full time missionary because of going on short term mission trips and practically ever missionary I know has the same story). but yeah, I still see ho ...more
Natalie Vellacott
This is a hard one to rate as although I agree with the basic principles of the book; that sharing the Gospel, long term work and relationship building should be the priority when helping the poor, I also felt that the emphasis was wrong in lots of areas. I hope this book has not stopped and will not continue to stop people helping the poor as they fear getting the methods wrong and hurting people. My general advice would be to pray for wisdom and then to give generously and, if you get it wrong ...more
Emily
Dec 04, 2013 Emily rated it it was ok
I could not be bothered to finish this. I agreed with many of the cited information and claims that the authors made, but not with any of the conclusions that they drew from this information. I'm not crazy about short-term missions and I deplore many of the things that the author condemns, such as the "poverty as deficit" model, paternalism towards the poor, and blaming the poor for their situation. I appreciated Chapter 8, but feel that it fell short.
However, the author often backtracks or rew
...more
Barnabas Piper
Jul 11, 2012 Barnabas Piper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first half of this book should get 6 or 7 out of five stars. The principles, concepts, and framework it presents are ministry and mindset altering. For me, as someone who gravitates toward that kind of instruction and thinking, it was priceless. The second half of the book looked deeper at particular areas of ministry such as short term missions or micro finance, so it was aimed a bit more at practitioners. Over all, this is one of the few books that I think every single missionary, pastor, ...more
John
Sep 23, 2015 John rated it it was ok
I read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brain Fikkert after having read Robert Lupton’s Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help. I was told that “When Helping Hurts” does a better job of giving constructive criticism of service work and poverty alleviation than “Toxic Charity” does while straying away from the ideological language so pervasive in “Toxic Charity”. Instead, I found the two books to ...more
Jason McIntire
Sep 23, 2016 Jason McIntire rated it it was amazing
While I already knew the general direction of this book, I was surprised by all the new perspectives and light bulb moments I encountered. Even if you don't agree with everything Corbett and Fikkert say, it's worth a read for the fresh ideas and insights. Just be sure you get a recent edition, as some areas of potential misunderstanding have been cleared up.
Dale
Jan 12, 2010 Dale rated it it was ok
This book was a helpful reminder of things that many authors have previously said ("give a man a fish...teach a man to fish..."); but it didn't break any new ground.

But there was a general tone, especially in the Forward and the Preface, towards Marxism.

In the Forward, Dr. John Perkins calls for the need for "social justice." That has become code word not for justice and mercy for the poor, but the call for the government to redistribute wealth.

In the Preface, the authors favorably discuss the
...more
Jonathan McIntosh
Dec 28, 2011 Jonathan McIntosh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sermon-study
Outstanding book. A must read for any Christian or local church that is serious about serving the poor. This book totally challenged my existing ideas of poverty, poverty alleviation, and practical steps local churches need to take to serve the poor both at home and abroad.
David Marino
Jan 16, 2017 David Marino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every person involved in missions, local and global, needs to read this book. Especially aspiring missionaries. I have encountered much of these issues my first year on the field. I felt like my heart was being read as I was reading the book.
Trice
Feb 14, 2010 Trice rated it really liked it
Overall, really good content and a good reminder of some major blind spots in the church in the developed world, along with some good guidance on better ways to move forward.

It felt a little scattered in places because often, in the midst of talking about theories of poverty alleviation, they suddenly throw in, 'but this isn't enough - don't forget about the gospel.' And while this is true, the way it was included in the book felt more like a distraction in some places than a helpful note.

Althou
...more
Curtis
Jun 17, 2014 Curtis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-again, audiobook
I started this one with the audio version of the second edition and finished it up with reading the third edition which has added chapters on getting started.

I really enjoyed how the authors focused on a more holistic understanding of poverty relief from the lens of the four relationships in our lives (self, others, God, creation). Seeing poverty this way reframes our questions and the approach we take. Is it really about solving a problem or journeying alongside someone? When we see poverty as
...more
Dana
Feb 17, 2015 Dana rated it liked it
This is a very eye opening and thought provoking book on an important subject. The authors do a great job of explaining what poverty truly is and then offer different solutions to aid in poverty alleviation. The greatest thing I took away from this book is the authors worldview that all people are made in the image of God and are meant to glorify God by fulfilling their vocational calling. This idea is the foundation of their solution. The authors have a humble attitude and stress that all peopl ...more
Douglas Wilson
Sep 27, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it
Very good book, with the exception of chapter 8. That one was a brick, but the rest of the book is much needed.
Amanda Hutton
Dec 02, 2015 Amanda Hutton rated it it was amazing
An eye-opening book that contains solid research and real-life examples. I am changed!
Harold Cameron
Nov 15, 2012 Harold Cameron rated it it was amazing
“How TO Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting The Poor And Yourself”

“With a new foreword by David Platt, two new chapters and a final word on how to help without hurting, this expanded edition of When Helping Hurts creates a new paradigm for partnership by asking Christians to declare and demonstrate among people who are poor that Jesus Christ is making all things new. While this book exposes past and current development efforts that churches have engaged in which unintentionally undermine the peopl
...more
Billie
Jan 31, 2017 Billie rated it really liked it
I read this book for professional development as a resident advocate at an apartment complex. In reading and discussing this book my team was hoping to better understand how we can help those in the community. The book wasn't as practical as we were hoping, and rather depressing at times. However, the last two chapters were extremely helpful in providing important tools to helping others without hurting either party. I loved the relational focus the book is centered around, and both authors do a ...more
Matt Hartzell
Oct 12, 2016 Matt Hartzell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: justice
Let's cut to the chase: When Helping Hurts is a critical and indispensable work for anyone even remotely thinking about how to love and serve people on the margins. Reading this book was a life-giving and invigorating experience on multiple levels. Even if you are not directly engaged in poverty alleviation at home or abroad, there is enough here to make this a worthwhile read for just about anyone.

There are a handful of things that Corbett and Fikkert do well that really make this text enormou
...more
Shorel Kleinert
Jan 21, 2017 Shorel Kleinert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: impact-track
If you believe in helping people, and if you are a follower of Jesus you do, then how do you help someone in a healthy way?

Did you know it's possible, with completely good intentions, to leave a person in a worse state than before you helped them?

Before you give money to a needy person or a village, you need to read this book.
Before you go on a short term humanitarian trip, you need to read this book.
Before your church adopts a people group, you need to read this book.
Before you loan that person
...more
Christopher
Jun 26, 2013 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recently recommended to me by the missions pastor at my church and I am very grateful to him for this recommendation. This is a book that deals with the topic of poverty alleviation from a North American Christian perspective and seeks to answer the question: why do certain missionary projects in our communities and around the world tend to do no good or even harm to those we are ministering too. The authors, Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert, rightly point out that the foundationa ...more
Greg Williams
May 06, 2015 Greg Williams rated it really liked it
I found this to be a thought-provoking book. As Christians, we are called to help the poor in our community and in the world. But oftentimes, the way we go about this is harmful to both the poor and ourselves. We paternalistically try to fix a poor person's problems without involving them in the solution. Which can lead to situations where we give and give but nothing changes. We reinforce the message that the poor person is powerless to change their situation and our own belief that we are supe ...more
Rebecca
Aug 06, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Very challenging and enlightening book. Read during summer school at my church and great discussion-driver! For me (and maybe those like me), you might have to persevere through the first two chapters. I struggled with some of the terminology and felt that the scriptural assertions were stretched out of context a bit. But as I continued to read, I got a better sense for the author's heart and appreciate the perspective more. Below are some of the big take away messages for me:

- Maybe a more PC w
...more
Kevin Cullis
Dec 20, 2016 Kevin Cullis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At its foundation, this book tackles a number of subjects that affect a community, at the heart, how doing good can actually do harm. Their four "poverties" and their "relief, rehabilitation, and development" models are right on the money. The western world's (primarily America) of elevating individualism above community contrasts to the rest of the world's collectivism, i.e. community, that is at the heart of other countries.

If you're starting a business, this book should be one in which you pi
...more
John
Sep 24, 2015 John rated it really liked it
"When Helping Hurts" starts with two premises:
1) North American Christians aren't doing nearly as much as they could be doing to alleviate poverty.
2) Much of what we are doing actually does more harm than good.
It's a gloomy diagnosis, but the authors -- who have considerable experience in this area -- have prescriptions for how we can do better. Even short-term missions, if done in the right way, aren't necessarily harmful, they write.
Although my short-term mission experience is extremely limite
...more
David Chung
Feb 18, 2017 David Chung rated it really liked it
Good baseline insights on addressing poverty wisely. Full of helpfully uncomfortable practical suggestions.
Alicia
Dec 25, 2011 Alicia rated it liked it
The authors are from the same town as I am. And I was in Uganda during the same time as one of the authors was conducting his field research. Additionally my husband met with one of the authors once to discuss micro-finance options. I was pretty keen to read this book, but it left me desiring more. Maybe that's the point - helping the poor demands much more thought and time than just reading one book.

Several points I found helpful and enlightening - include the materially poor in solution develo
...more
Jason Custer
Dec 05, 2012 Jason Custer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have any intention of ever being involved in missions (short or long term), humanitarian aid, or working with those in poverty, I'd highly recommend you read this book. The thesis is that, in our western and materialistic understanding of poverty, when we try to help those in poverty we actually do more harm than good (both to those we are trying to help, and to ourselves). We tend to see the problem of poverty as a material/financial solution that we need to fix by giving the right amoun ...more
Missjgray
Jun 23, 2010 Missjgray rated it it was ok
I'm about a year behind everyone else reading this. But that's ok, I've read plenty else that, I think, provides a good context for understanding where this book is coming from, and where it could be going. This book points out some relevant questions, but answers them from a very arrogant point of view (while affirming non-arrogance) and does little to provide motivation other than selfish reasoning. Don't help the poor the wrong way or you'll hurt yourself and waste your time.

There seems to b
...more
Marcus Lynn
Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert have done a great service for the Church in their book When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself.



One of the major premises of the book is that “until we can embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.” Their central point is, ” One of the biggest problems in many poverty-alleviation efforts is that their design and implementation exacerbates the poverty of being of
...more
Jennifer
Jan 11, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I'd recently read The Hole in our Gospel, and thought it a compelling call to action. This book, recommended to me by a friend, is a plan of action. Well, not a plan perhaps, but a set of guidelines and considerations on how to help effectively. Basically, it about how not to make things worse by throwing money around and attempting to rescue those who do not need *you* to rescue them. It focuses on the need of both rich and poor for the true Savior to rescue them, and how to effectively ministe ...more
Joanna
Sep 17, 2011 Joanna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
This is an absolute must-read for those who are engaging in the current trend toward missional poverty alleviation efforts. Corbett begins with a Biblically based understanding on broken relationships derived from the fall and their radiating effects to all the various relationships that make up our social structures. He marries this Biblical understanding to scholarly research on social work, highlighting especially potential misconceptions or matters of ignorance in the common practices of pov ...more
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Mr. Corbett is an Assistant Professor of Community Development in the Dep. of Economics at Covenant College.He also serves as a Community Development Specialist for the Chalmers Center as Director of Field Operations and Training.

Previously, Corbett worked for Food for the Hungry International (FHI) as the Regional Director for Central and South America for two years. Before assuming these respons
...more
More about Steve Corbett...

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“Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do more harm than good. I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something. I am not okay, and you are not okay. But Jesus can fix us both.” 9 likes
“Poverty alleviation occurs when the power of Christ's resurrection reconciles our key relationships through the transformation of both individual lives and local, national, and international systems.” 7 likes
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