New Models of Charity - Do Something 2014

On October 27, Robert Lupton, founder of FCS Urban Ministries, addressed a crowd of over 150 people from 60 organizations and churches of all faiths at the Do Something Workshop in Mansfield.  Mr. Lupton shared his success trying new methods of charity in innercity Atlanta.

Wanting to impact troubled youth and neighborhoods, Mr. Lupton had moved into an innercity neighborhood several years ago.  Below are some highlights from what he learned and implemented successfully after observation, conversation with local residents, and trial and error:

  • Christmas Toy Shop: As a new resident in the innercity neighborhood, Mr. Lupton noticed that fathers left the room when his organization delivered Christmas gifts through his Adopt a Family program.  He realized these fathers felt ashamed and exposed in front of their children for not being able to provide for their families.  The following year, he changed the Christmas giving program.  He asked the program’s sponsors to allow them to set up a toy shop and sell gifts to recipient families at prices between garage sale and wholesale prices.  Parents could select and purchase gifts for their children.  Parents who did not have money could work in the toy shop and earn money to buy gifts.  They called the new program Pride for Parents.  Through the experience, Mr. Lupton said he learned people would rather work to earn toys to purchase for their children than stand in the free toy line with their proof of poverty to get gifts that someone else purchased for their children.
  • Tapping into Talents: “Everyone has something of value to contribute,” Mr. Lupton said at the workshop.  Mr. Lupton encouraged helping community members in poverty to identity the gifts and resources they could bring to the table.  He suggested we need to change our perspective that those with low income have nothing to give. He gave the examples of homebound seniors participating in a neighborhood block watch just by watching out the windows.  Or a graffiti artist being invited to create a beautiful mural to welcome people to the neighborhood.
  • Hearing from the Local Residents:  Living in an innercity neighborhood allowed Mr. Lupton to develop relationships with the residents and hear their opinions on efforts to fight poverty.  One neighbor said the neighborhood residents should be part of determining what service projects that wealthier church members would do in their neighborhood rather than the churches assuming what should be done.  Another said the church members treated them like pagans by preaching to them, when in reality, the neighborhood residents were the ones clinging to faith in God when they had no more food.  This person wanted the neighborhood residents to be able to share their faith with the church groups coming in to do service projects.
  • Mixed-income subdivisions – Mr. Lupton and his organization, FCS Urban Ministries, were instrumental in the creation of mixed-income housing in Atlanta.  Residents of middle and upper income levels are invited to live among and be good neighbors to residents in lower income and public housing.  Neighborhood issues are discussed and resolved in neighborhood association meetings.  Neighbors look out for each other and support each other, providing job referrals and parenting support.  Children and teens provide positive peer pressure to stay in school and get jobs.  Crime is low because neighbors look out for each other.

To learn more about Robert Lupton and his proposals for effective charity, read Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help and How to Reverse It.

The Body of Giving: How Should We Respond to People on the Streets?

In the third chapter of “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help and How to Reverse It,” Robert Lupton discusses the financial, psychological, and emotional effects charity has on those we seek to help. Lupton illustrates in the chapter, entitled “The Anatomy of Giving,” that the body of giving is composed of both mercy and justice. Justice to mean fairness and reasonableness. Mercy to mean compassion, kindness and forgiveness.

Homeless on street - MicrosoftHe challenges the reader to consider all elements in a person’s life justly before helping out of the impulse of compassion. He states that the Bible places equal emphasis on both mercy and justice and that both should be used to provide a holistic response to those in need.

Toward the end of the chapter, Lupton talks about an article by Christianity Post that explained three different opinions from three veteran ministry leaders who answered the question: Should we give to people on the street? Their answers varied. Here is what each ministry leader had to say.

Option 1: Freely Give

Gary Hoag, the Generosity Monk, says that we should be willing to give money to people on the street freely and without judgment. “Freely you have received, freely give, (Matt. 10:8)” Hoag says in support to his claim.

He adds: To be generous “on every occasion” requires faith to believe that God will, indeed, care for our needs if we show his love by caring for others. As Brennan Manning says, “God’s call for each of us to live a life of unlimited generosity is rooted in his limitless love and care for us.”

Option 2: Only as a Last Resort

Andy Bales, chief executive of Union Rescue Mission, believes that “giving cash to some in need is the least helpful and most temporary solution and should only be a last resort.” Based on experience, Bales’ says that most panhandlers are not truly homeless or impoverished and may walk off with $300 a day from generous people only to walk to their car and drive home. So what’s Bales approach to helping the homeless?

“When someone approaches me and asks for funds to get a place to stay, I connect them with resources, often hand them my card, and ask them to come to our mission. I also work to get them enrolled in a program that will provide not only a roof over their head but also, possibly, a life-transforming experience.”

Bales pulls support for his article from Acts which tells the story of Peter and John healing the lame man. The response to the beggar was not to give his money but to give him the gift of healing. Bales says that giving money to homeless should happen rarely and only when there are no other options for other services.

Option 3: Don’t Give

“Love is acting in the best interest of others. Providing money so some can continue immoral destructive behavior is simply not a loving act,” says Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action.

Sider says that givers should not provide handouts to support irresponsible behavior. He says that it is extremely difficult to quickly distinguish such persons from those in real need. We should give our money and resources to holistic programs that “liberate, empower and transform.”

Lupton’s Response

“Due diligence. If you don’t have time to invest in forging a trusting relationship, give your money to a ministry that does. Even so, every once in a while we might feel an inner nudge to stop immediately and help a person, offering food or money or a ride. This may well be the intervention of the divine showing unconditional grace at a critical point in someone’s life. Still, there is no way of knowing until the curtain of history is pulled back to reveal the unknowable.”

Join the conversation on our Facebook page

Which response do you agree with? Why? Are there past experiences that may have led you to agree with that response? Are there other ways to consider being just and merciful to those on the streets?
To read the full article referenced by Lupton, go to:

Urban Activist And Author Relates Problems with Charity Work

In almost three months, Robert Lupton, nationally renowned author and urban activist in Atlanta, will be a guest speaker  for our 100th Anniversary Celebration in Mansfield.  His latest book, “Toxic Charity,” will be the topic of conversation as members of the Mansfield community come together to find ways to help those who are in need.

For more information about the 100th Anniversary Celebration in Mansfield, please click here.

Urban Activist And Author Relates Problems with Charity Work
By Josef Kuhn
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) Food pantries, clothes closets and mission trips have become unquestioned bastions of America’s charitable landscape. But do these well-intended services — many of them run by religious organizations — really help the poor?

According to Robert Lupton, not really. His new book, “Toxic Charity,” draws on his 40 years’ experience as an urban activist in Atlanta, and he argues that most charitable work is ineffective or actually harmful to those it is supposed to help.

Lupton is the founder of FCS Urban Ministries, through which he has developed mixed-income subdivisions that house hundreds of families. He is the author of four other books and holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Georgia.

Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You say churches and charities can harm those they propose to help. How?

A: Typically, the giving is one-way: those of us with the resources give to those with a lack of resources. One-way giving tends to make the poor objects of pity, which harms their dignity. It also erodes their work ethic and produces a dependency that is unhealthy both for the giver and the recipient.

Q: What is one of the worst instances of `toxic charity’ you have witnessed?

A: The food pantry idea has led to some fairly ugly relationships. The church or group sets up rules to govern how the food is distributed; the recipients figure out ways to circumvent those rules; and they become upset when they don’t get the food they wanted — there’s a kind of a built-in antagonism that grows between the dispensers and the recipients.

Q: Why do you think ill-formed charity is so pervasive?

A: The feel-good experience draws us back in. In our newsletters about mission trips we report how wonderful and grateful the people are, but what we don’t hear are the ways that the trips damage people behind the scenes.

I don’t think we’ve held up good models of development. When there’s a flood or a hurricane, folks continue operating on a one-way, crisis, give-to-the-poor mentality long after development should have taken place, because it’s easier for relief agencies to sell crisis than development and empowerment.

Q: You advise limiting one-way giving to “emergency situations.” What do you define as an emergency situation?

A: A home burning down, a bad hurricane, a devastating earthquake, a famine. What we interpret as crisis, particularly in the U.S., is a different matter. Many of those who are running our food pantries and our clothes closets, for example, feel they are meeting a crisis need of unemployed families. I contend that those are chronic poverty issues that deserve a development strategy.

Q: What is one of the best examples you have seen of a charity that works well?

A: We converted our food pantry into a food co-op. Members of the co-op put in $3 a week; with that, we can purchase $30 worth of groceries from the food bank. The members of the co-op actually own it, run it, collect the money, do the shopping and decide what the rules are. It becomes an empowering process.

Q: Are there any wide-scale studies or statistical data to support your claims?

A: On a national scale, look at the results of the one-way giving that has gone into countries in Africa or Haiti over the years. Those statistics are available, and they’re blatant. But I don’t know of any studies that have been done to quantify the harm versus the benefits of U.S. food distribution. It’s an unexamined industry.

Q: It seems like you could be facing some heat for this idea; what has been the reaction so far?

A: I’ve gotten mixed reviews. It confirms the suspicions of a growing number of people, but for those who are involved in the distribution, it feels like a slap in the face. I think the whole thing is going to be fairly controversial.

Q: What’s the most controversial idea in the book?

A: It might be that most of our service projects and mission trips are counterproductive. We spend as much as $5 billion dollars annually on mission trips, millions of Americans take them every year, and the amount of good accomplished is very, very minimal compared to the expenditures we’re laying out.

Q: Is your book a justification for libertarian politics?

A: I don’t think it is a political book at all. It is a practical book — it has to do with the practice of charity. It calls for responsible charity, examined charity, rather than mindless charity.

For more, go to

This October, we will continue our 100th Anniversary celebration in Mansfield with Robert Lupton, a nationally renowned author who is best known for his book “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, and How to Reverse It.”

For more information about our 100th Anniversary Celebration in Mansfield, please click here.

Do you know the difference between a chronic and a crisis? In the following post, Lupton breaks down the difference and shares why it is important to properly address the situation and assess the need according to the issue.

Chronic or Crisis? Learning to Tell the Difference.

by Bob Lupton

A crisis requires emergency intervention;
A chronic problem requires development.
Address a crisis need with a crisis intervention, and lives are saved.
Address a chronic need with a crisis intervention, and people are harmed.

Have you noticed that many of the same people return week after week for free food from your food pantry? Ever wonder whether your handouts were really helping or merely perpetuating a dependent lifestyle? Admitting and verbalizing these observations, at the risk of appearing heartless, is the essential first step toward truly effective service. The point isn’t to judge people who are suffering from a chronic problem; it isn’t to be cruel and deny them help because they “are stuck” and just need to “get a job.” The point is that, in offering food, you are not doing enough. It’s as ineffective as offering a Band-Aid to someone who is suffering from massive internal bleeding.

The key to effective service is accurately matching the need with the appropriate intervention.

The universal need for food is a good place to begin. Starvation is a crisis issue; hunger is a chronic issue. When famine sweeps a land, or a tsunami devastates coastal cities, starvation becomes an urgent, life-and-death situation. Emergency food supplies must be rushed in without delay. But in a stable nation with abundant supplies of food and adequate government food subsidies, occasional hunger—not starvation—is the reality facing the less advantaged. Food insecurity is a chronic, not crisis, poverty issue.

Food security is what free-food advocates talk about these days. That means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. The poor in America, roughly 15 percent of the population, are food-insecure at least sometime during the year. Even though four out of five of these households receive food from the government, there are times when their cupboards are bare.

But food-insecurity is not a crisis issue. It is a function of chronic poverty. Unlike during the great depression of the 1930’s when one in four of our workers stood in bread lines with no government safety net to rescue them, today more than 90 percent of our workforce is employed and our public subsidies are ample. Hunger is not our problem. Poor nutrition perhaps, but not hunger. Food insecurity is a chronic poverty issue and chronic problems require altogether different strategies than crisis problems.

Starvation is a crisis need; hunger is a chronic issue.

Address hunger (chronic) with a free feeding program (crisis) and unhealthy dependency occurs.

Our Mission

Catholic Charities makes real the love God has for each individual regardless of faith or background, by serving the poor, speaking for and assisting the neglected and forgotten, respecting and promoting life from beginning to end, and nurturing and supporting individuals and families.

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