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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  11,291 ratings  ·  1,019 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 conc ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published June 24th 2009 by Moody Publishers
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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 e…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 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 wro ...more
Sep 23, 2015 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
Barnabas Piper
Jul 11, 2012 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
Ben Thurley
As a how-to guide on some of the dynamics of good community development, When Helping Hurts has some helpful insights. As an evangelical theology of poverty and "helping", it is passable – but in a field not exactly crowded with contenders. As a reflection on the causes and consequences of poverty, it is – haha – poor. As an analysis of the systems and structures that make and keep people poor, it is shamefully inadequate.

Some reviewers have labelled this as paradigm-busting or revolutionary. It
Dec 04, 2013 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
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it
So here's the thing. This book contains radically important and often overlooked information. Sometimes the band-aids we put on what we view as poverty ends up causing much more harm than good in the long run, in ways we've refused to see. I get that. It points out that we sometimes see ourselves as some kind of savior, perfect and needing to share that perfection which is just all wrong. I get that too. I also feel more and more that we should help smarter-put our time and effort into the ways ...more
Jason McIntire
Sep 23, 2016 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. ...more
Jan 12, 2010 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
Jonathan McIntosh
Dec 28, 2011 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.
Oct 09, 2017 added it
One of the best books I've read on the issue of poverty and challenging one's definition of what poverty means and to approach relief and development. If you every work with people in any situation, this is an excellent read. ...more
Douglas Wilson
Sep 27, 2009 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.
Belphoebe Merkle
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Seriously changed my view of what poverty is and how you should deal with it, also I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in, or considering short-term missions trips.
Lainey Finch
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for every Christian- especially those interested in stewarding kingdom resources well and living out their calling of being a minister of reconciliation. I really appreciated the willingness the authors had to challenge popular Christian ideas and beliefs about poverty alleviation, but out of a desire to see God most glorified and not just to bash the Church. This was definitely a humbling read- we all get it wrong sometimes, but by God’s grace He redeems.
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“God has sovereignly chosen to work in the world by beginning with the weak who are on the ‘outside,’ not the powerful who are on the ‘inside.’” -Mark Gornik

Amazing. Too rich to review, but unpack it with me in person sometime.
Brad Linden
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Going in to this book, I generally expected to read "The way you're doing charity is bad, do it this way instead". I was right: the authors give examples of counterproductive (if not destructive) types of service/charity/missions, and then give more helpful alternative ways to serve those in need.

However, this book is so much more than that. The heart of this book is in it's discussions that help reframe ideas about what it means to be "poor", what it means to be someone who can "help", what Go
Laura Burdick
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, to-buy
This was one of the rare books that has completely transformed my perspective on a topic, and because of that I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to engage deeper with this topic.

This book provides an introduction to the causes of poverty, as well as poverty alleviation strategies. It talks about how sometimes well-intentioned strategies can actually end up hurting everyone involved, including the people that they're meant to help. As an alternative, it suggests a framework for thinkin
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
There are some things I like about this book. I really like its discussion about the God-complexes of many people who try to help the poor, it’s discussion about unintentional power dynamics between rich and poor, and it’s discussion about the negative impact of many short-term mission trips. I grew up as an MK in East Asia, and totally agree on those points.

However, the author writes this as if it’s a Bible-based perspective from God on poverty, but most of the ideas in the book don’t come from
Matt Hartzell
Oct 12, 2016 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
Peter Jones
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Just a note: I read the first edition. Some of what is below they may have addressed in subsequent versions. I am not sure.

The first part of this book was first rate. The authors clearly show the mistakes that we have made in helping the poor on both a corporate and individual level. They encourage proper evaluation of what is actually needed to help someone alleviate material poverty. The spend quite a bit of time talking about different types of poverty, such as poverty of being or poverty of
Dan Curnutt
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As we have been dealing with the Homeless Issue in our community (they are now called "unsheltered" to be politically correct) we needed a refresher on what is truly helpful in how to deal with them.

I suggested that our staff read Corbett's book and it has proven to be a blessing to us. Our staff have spent many hours talking about the book, working through the questions that are posed and then applying some of the issues to our situation.

The bottom line is that Corbett helps you to see that the
Feb 14, 2010 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.

Jun 17, 2014 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
Feb 17, 2015 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
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't realize at first that this was written more for institutions (or churches) and community leaders than for individuals like me. However, I learned a lot and it helped clarify my own thoughts about giving and serving.

I particularly appreciated that Biblical principles and the gospel are the underpinnings of every strategy presented here.

I didn't fully agree with all of his assertions nor with all of his theology (not being reformed myself), but my disagreements were minor and do not aff
Deane Barker
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about the inadvertent damage we do when trying to help. It discusses how to help other communities and countries without accidentally making things worse -- how to help in such a way that you build the community itself up, instead of just throwing money and volunteer hours at something and therefore holding it down.

Some of this is "tough love," but that's valuable. Sometimes it needs to be. Immediate help and relief are important, but communities need to build themselves up, rathe
Emily Ruble
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
When Helping Hurts is a great book that launches a lifestyle of humility and empowerment in caring for the poor. This book exposes the harm of God-complexes in Christians—specifically North American Christians—and calls for the reconciliation of all people to God, to each other, to themselves, and to creation. The first half was captivating and informative. I did not find chapters 8-9 as helpful.
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent read on how to equip people to help themselves not just enable them to be perpetually dependent. This book should be required reading for any minister or lay leader in ministry.
David Marino
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.
Rich Schmaltz
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So helpful to understand practical ways to serve the poor. The best part was the practical sections near the end and the best idea was the distinction between relief, rehabilitation, and development and making sure we do the right thing at the right time.
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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

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115 likes · 42 comments
“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.” 13 likes
“We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world, sustaining them, Hebrews 1:3 says, by His powerful Word. Hence, a significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a LONG time.” 10 likes
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