Relief, Development, and Self-Sufficiency

201608 Graduated and CurrentOne of our favorite books at SEED is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Recently I was reminded of one of the key principles in this book: The authors say that 90 percent of the church’s charitable work should be focused on development, not relief. The recent movie Poverty, Inc makes similar points. These works and our experiences with SEED have made me revisit some biblical texts.

I think, for instance, of Paul’s travels collecting funds for the believers in Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 8 he exhorts the church to be generous in their giving, recognizing that they should supply Jerusalem’s needs now and that their own needs would be supplied by someone else later.

Again, Paul writes to the Galatians imploring the believers to “bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the will of God.” If we believe that the body of Christ extends across the globe, it is not a stretch to apply this idea to more than individuals, then. If God has given one church an abundance of something, it seems obvious that one of His intents is that the church should share its resources where there is a lack. All churches lack: some lack funds to do the ministry God has called them to; some have funds but lack vision; some have funds and vision but lack know-how; some have funds, vision and know-how but lack workers for the harvest.

But how is this sharing to happen? When Helping Hurts gives us a key insight: don’t do for others what they can do for themselves. And how will we know that? We certainly won’t know it by deciding for ourselves what we will or won’t do for another church (or individual, or country). The only way to do that is to listen and to learn.

When we decide in advance what we will do, we tie the hands of those we want to serve. It may be done with the best of intentions, but it is still disempowering to tell a group what we will do for them.

To fulfill the dual biblical commends to bear one another’s burdens while also bearing our own, we must recognize that “development” means entering with the mindset to help as little as needed for as short a time as possible. The sooner an individual, a family, a church, or a community assumes ownership of provision for its own needs, the better off they are – and the better off we are as well.

It is a healthy thing when we can come alongside someone and then watch them stand on their own. We can feel a great sense of pride in what we have done … and a great humility in recognizing the way God has used us. And above all, a deep sense of awe at how we have been created to touch each other’s lives, becoming more together than we ever could alone.

All of this makes us tremendously excited to share this new map with you. This shows current artisan group partners (red), current SEED Capital partners (blue), and graduated groups (green). Groups that have “graduated” are ones that no longer work with us because they are independent and self-sustaining. We are humbled and proud to note that there are more green pins than red and blue put together!

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