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Monday, October 30, 2006
Faith & The Culture of Poverty
Sojourners is a great example of a Christian group that is addressing the systemic injustices in our public policy. Perhaps those of us who feel led can contact sojourners and express our desire to see the issue of wages and education be more emphasized. But what about systemic problems in the culture of poverty? How can the church, local and universal address these less tangible factors in the poverty cycle within communities and families?

I have a couple of ideas:

1. We could fashion networks of excellent mentoring programs, including training, support and affirmation for mentors. I think this would also be a fabulous opportunity for healthy ecumenism -- the goal not being conversion to our beliefs, but making tangible the good news to the poor described in Luke 4 -- that the oppressed may be free! By collaborating with over people of faith and even secular people with their hearts in the right places, we could set a goal of A Mentor for Every Child in Need.

Research shows that kids who have a relationship with someone who cares about them significantly and believe in them are much better at overcoming adversity than children who don't. I read this somewhere, maybe someone with a better memory can think of the source. Doesn't this make sense? Why bother trying if no one expects great things of you? Why bother trying if you don't believe anyone cares?

2. We could preach on the theme of "To whom much is given, much is required," encouraging business people to invest both their time and their money in creating internships and other "ways in" for talented, disadvantaged kids.

3. We could make this a theme of bible studies and and small groups, and stress the importance of hearing and putting into practice the lessons of Jesus.

What other ideas do you all have sisters? And what can we do together to get the word out in our churches?

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posted by Jemila Kwon at 4:05 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 10/31/2006 07:09:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Other ideas:

    Either open up or begin volunteering at an existing after-school tutoring centre.

    Expose those who are 16+ to things like formal dinners or mock interviews - these are skills that are often left untaught in many families.

    Host or attend positive cultural events - poetry slams, shakespeare in the park, anything that expands horizons and that they're interested in. The arts are an integral part of making life meaningful for many of us.

  • At 10/31/2006 12:19:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Yo -- I like the idea of buffing up the arts and using them to enjoin young people to sense they are part of something greater -- instead of slashing funding for the arts because they aren't seen as short-term pragmatic. Also like the mock interviews idea. Like what if we brought alive the community center idea, but made it truly a whole-person ministry, where people could develop skills, creativity and relationships?

  • At 10/31/2006 04:49:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    made it truly a whole-person ministry, where people could develop skills, creativity and relationships?

    That would be so amazing.

    What other ideas do y'all have?

  • At 11/01/2006 06:55:00 AM, Blogger juniper

    Perhaps, a different perspective might be useful. Most church outreach programs are designed to help parts of families e.g., the youth, the couple, the woman, the man. The only place where seems to be different is when it comes to providing foodstuffs through an outreach program. Perhaps, we should value families as organic parts of the culture as well as the individual parts. The factors that contribute to poverty have to be cured in the whole family, not just one or two members if the culture of poverty is to be changed.

  • At 11/01/2006 07:28:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    juniper, I totally agree here. I think one-on-on ministry can help individuals transcend or escape the culture of poverty, but to actually change it...that's so much deeper. And I don't think the bulk of can come from "the outside." What ideas you have?

  • At 11/01/2006 10:36:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I've recently been concerned about poor nutrition as one of the root causes of endemic poverty. Low income families cannot afford to feed their children healthy food, or don't have the knowledge to know how. Poor nutrition in turn leads to poor performance in school as well as chronic health problems; thus setting up children from low income families to continue in the cycle of poverty.

    What if churches offered free classes on how to eat healthy and how to buy healthy food on a budget? What if we sponsored cooking classes to teach low income parents how to cook delicious healthy dishes without too much time and effort? Churches could easily advertise such classes at the local food pantries or social services centers.

    What if we also advocated for better food in our school cafeterias? Many low income children receive free lunches at school, but if their only option is crap (or even if they are given the option of choosing sugary crap over a less appealing healthy option) then the schools themselves are just contributing to their poor performance.

    I don't know. It's not a fix-all, but it just strikes me that if we want to do something about poverty, we need to start striking at some of the root problems.


  • At 11/01/2006 02:40:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    This is a great read, lots of intersting thoughts and information.

    Mike, Our church works with a church in the inner city that some of the stuff you are talking about. Basic educational classes for families, etc. We're a mostly white, upper income level church in the burbs - about 20 minutes from Baltimore. We work with the NewSong church and community - here is a link:

    They have arts, a learning center, health co-op, preschool, job center, etc. I noticed on their site a link to Christian Community Development Association: http://www.ccda.org/

    You might be able to gain information/experience from either site which would help you (or others) undertake similar endeavors in your own communities.

    Our church has begun hosting some free arts events- we recently had a jazz fest under the stars and from what I understand it was a big turnout.

    We are in suburbia, no public transporation to speak of, so I will be following this thread for what we might be able to adapt to our circumstances/region. As mentioned, we support NewSong, but there are under advantaged (if not 'poor') in our community as well.

    We also have a secular organization locally called FIRN. They help immigrants establish themselves in the community, get acclimated etc. One possible element contributing to the poor among us might be immigration and issues surrounding that. Here is FIRNs website: http://www.firnonline.org/

    I am not sure exactly what type of assistance they may offer, but maybe some of it can be useful.

    One more, our church has a 'car ministry'. We do repairs for free (or moderate fees for those who can offer something) to single mothers. Transportation issues are a concern when it comes to income aquisition. :) The ministry also gives free cars to single mothers in need. We then help keep them on the road. We have several mechanics that do the work on their own time, for free.

    Hope that is helpful to someone.

  • At 11/01/2006 07:01:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Thanks for sharing all these resources and inspiring ideas! I'd love to hear more about how your churches have implemented them in a suburban area. I'm part of a church-within-a-church plant that hopes to eventually be independent, but I don't think the pastor has thought much beyond personal spirituality. And I have such a big mouth, my eternal challenge is to know when and how to open it so that it is of the Spirit.

    Also, what are some ways of building bridges between suburban, mostly white middle class communities and poorer, more multi-ethnic communities...how do you do this without it looking like condescension? How do you become partners in God's work rather than the haves helping the havenots?

    Mike, I do buy (mostly) healthy food -- but as for cooking it, well I could use that class too!! :)

  • At 11/01/2006 09:24:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    Jemila, I can only touch on your last comment with very limited personal exposure. But our church partnered with a church, community, not sure how it started -- in the inner city - maybe they got involved with a kids mentoring program somehow - and then extended that into the community etc. There is a group called the Pen Lucy partnership (off to see if they have a website....here is what I found: http://www.fcfchurch.org/outreach/plyp.htm maybe take a look at their history, etc?)

    Over at Sandtown/Windchester (NewSong) one or two white middle class families from the burbs moved into the (drug infested, low income, black) community - little blondeheaded kids in tow (ages under 5) and they just became a part of the neighborhood. They were called to that kind of minsitry.

    I think there is always the fear of being seen as an outsider, a do-gooder, and of getting hit with resentment etc. But if you (generic 'you') are called to it, best to go ahead and follow.....people are often able to see (and accept) need for their kids,plus if they are trying to get ahead they may be in need of afterschool activities, etc so sports and other after school activities may really be a welcome thing. Also, I would recommend finding local faith communities and asking how you might partner with them and share their vision - they know what their community needs. Kind of like cross cultural missions, let the local indigenous church help lead the way. If there is absolutely NO local church around, maybe get in touch with the schools in the area and find out what their needs are and see if you can help.

    Also, there is a website -- think its servantevangelism.org -- they have some wacky ideas for doing things in communities with the intent of just serving and giving a face to the local church (face with a name, name with a face) but I bet some of those ideas could be adopted as a way of just getting attention....things like setting up an easel for a large pictionary board in an open area (park) and inviting passersby to jump in on the game. Keep going back - get to know the people, through their kids if need be...and begin to come alongside of them. Sounds wacky, but I think part of the way the Pen Lucy partnership began was through sports - pick up b-ball or something.....

    just my .02

  • At 11/04/2006 02:11:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Really appreciate your ideas and 02.
    :) Thank you!


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