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

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  6,120 Ratings  ·  622 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. When Helping Hurts provides foundational concepts, clearly articulated general principles and relevant applications that make it ideal for Sunday School classes, small group studies, mi ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published June 1st 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
Aug 19, 2012 John Martindale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Barnabas Piper
Jul 24, 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
Jason McIntire
Sep 23, 2016 Jason McIntire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 18, 2015 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jonathan McIntosh
Oct 25, 2013 Jonathan McIntosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.

Aug 08, 2015 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
Jan 12, 2010 Dale rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 09, 2015 Dana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2010 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2016 Amanda Hutton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An eye-opening book that contains solid research and real-life examples. I am changed!
Matt Hartzell
Oct 16, 2016 Matt Hartzell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Harold Cameron
Nov 15, 2012 Harold Cameron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
Jeff Elliott
Oct 26, 2016 Jeff Elliott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church
I had heard about this book for several years and have just now gotten around to reading it. It will probably serve as the text/guide book for a community outreach ministry we are contemplating for 2017.

p. 28-We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet, most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world. We attend our kids' soccer games, pursue our careers, and take beach vacations while 40 percent of the world's inhabitants struggle just to eat
Greg Williams
Jun 05, 2015 Greg Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 06, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Nov 03, 2012 Alicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Custer
May 05, 2013 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
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
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
Jan 18, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2011 Joanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jill Boyd
Aug 14, 2012 Jill Boyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I've ever read on this subject. My basic take away is that true, effective, sincere help is possible when given in humility and the attitude that we're all broken and in need. The reason people are in need is because their basic relationships are weak...their relationships to family, friends, God and creation. Completely fixing these things are impossible but we can help in a way that takes time, time, time and energy, energy, energy and be effective.

So hey, maybe giving a
This book is an excellent read for people no matter where they may be serving. If you heart is burdened to do something to help people who live all around us it's important to read this book first. We need to stop and consider what this author has said before we throw money around thinking that we're helping. We may actually be hurting, and I don't think any of us want to do that! We need to understand that "Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not ...more
Ashleigh Buchanan
Jul 20, 2016 Ashleigh Buchanan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poverty is a tough and loaded topic to try and cover in a book. This was a heavy read and took me a while to get through (partly because I took so many notes) but I'm so glad I did because I learned so much. This book has Jesus in the center of everything and provides many examples of good and bad practices of poverty alleviation. This book is a MUST for anyone currently working in the field of poverty alleviation or who would want to someday. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a heart for ...more
May 27, 2013 blackness rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I greatly enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in "helps" ministries.

The book is probably more suited for people who are highly involved in running or participating in "helps" ministries, but even if you aren't running a ministry it is great to think through the issues raised in this book; especially the issues that the authors bring up about paternalism, money/power issues, god-complexes, and other pitfalls pertaining to the social issues of the "goers" and "he
Karen B
I read the first edition of this book quickly about 2 years ago. It's good and important, but it felt like it wasn't addressed to me. I work overseas in international relief and development. This felt like it was more oriented towards a US-based audience, church leaders and missions pastors who need ideas for a better way to give.

So I perhaps didn't read it as deeply as I should have because it wasn't "scratching my itch" or addressing issues and questions I was facing at the time. However, rece
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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 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.” 8 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.” 6 likes
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