As I prepare to attend the Rethink Poverty conference, I wanted to present a book review of sorts that I first posted awhile back. Even though service/outreach isn’t your primary job description, it’s a subject every college minister needs to be familiar with – and have some solid principles to guide them. Between local service projects, campaigns for “causes,” and mission trips, it’s vital that our field be solid here. Students coming out of college should have a great understanding of helping in ways that truly help.
When Helping Hurts has become a true “modern classic,” known and loved by an enormous swath of “outreach guys” in various positions and places. The book details the underlying principles of serving people – particularly the poor – without harming them (or ourselves) in the process.
If your college ministry does anything with service (and oh boy I hope you do), WHH really is a must-read (and a must-grasp) for you and any student leaders directing that charge.
But the only tricky thing I’ve noticed about WHH is that it’s fairly thick… both in the number of pages and in the headiness of the topics. Neither of those things is bad or unnecessary. But it makes it a little tricky to, for example, make it required reading for mission trip participants, or to walk through it in a 6-week Bible study.
That’s why it’s been fun to see the Chalmers Institute (who puts this out) release a couple of new versions in recent years, versions even more obviously useful to college ministers: When Helping Hurts: The Small Group Experience and Helping without Hurting in Short-Term Missions. Both of these are designed for groups (the latter has a participant’s guide and a leader’s guide), along with supporting video and other interactive elements. So that’s a win, whether for your small groups or specifically for those jumping in to short-term mission trips. (And yes, these guys actually believe short-term trips can be done well and effectively. They just recognize – rightly – that many aren’t.)
So that’s it. If you’re involved in service and not presently familiar, you should be. (And I bet a local Church Outreach Guy is already.)