“To do for others what they have the capacity to do for themselves is to disempower them” Robert Lupton Toxic Charity
This statement has been on my mind a lot. It has to do with my experience working with a lot of people in poverty on a daily basis. You learn quite a bit from working with people in poverty including people who are just looking for another handout. I learned my lesson pretty quickly when starting a nonprofit. I was serving anyone and everyone and it was taking a toll on me. I soon realized that I had to narrow down my focus in order to make a greater impact.
It was hard telling people “no” after we focused on the people we needed to serve but it resulted in eliminating some of the hand-me-out people. I’m not saying that I dislike the hand-me-out people; I’m just saying that helping them doesn’t do any good. A lot of the hand-me-out people have the potential to help themselves but they do not want to work for it. Yes, some may not know of the resources and then it is the job of our agencies to point them in the right direction. I know it’s hard because you want to help them so much more, but you find out a lot about a person when you point them in the right direction and let them go. It’s crucial that as agency leaders we don’t do for people we serve what they can do for themselves. This is a lesson I learned quickly.
People may not like this quote and say that we should serve the people anyway but that is because we do not take the right approach. Asking the right questions in the nonprofit and church world is the key. We need to learn how to ask the questions so that we can really help people. Another point is that if we spend all of our resources on the people who can help themselves, how are we supposed to serve those who really need us? Sooner or later we would run out of resources. I believe in helping people but there has to be a balance. This is why I believe in this quote and would recommend this book to any missions pastor and nonprofit leader. It will make you think on how you’re serving people and how to improve that process.