Learning from Our Failures

I have heard that “We learn more through our failures than we learn through our successes.” If that is true, I would have been a genius years ago. I believe the statement is only partially true. We learn more through our failures after we have had time to reflect and correct them.

Denise and I have spent the majority of our ministry serving the urban poor. I have tried hundreds of things. I have failed hundreds of times. Along the way, I have learned a few things.

Here are four reasons the Church’s work at alleviating poverty is failing…and what we can do about it.

1. If we see our materially poor neighbors at all, we see them as people we despise, pity, or want to fix. None of these are good. Our neighbors struggling with material poverty are people to be valued, loved, and empowered.

2. We are more interested in treating symptoms than creating solutions. Why? It is easier, faster, and cleaner. Someone has said if you have to keep fishin’ folks out of the river, someone needs to go upstream and see who is pushin’ them in!

3. We love our programs/projects more than we do our neighbors. Coats drives, backpack giveaways, and food pantries all have their place, but they are no substitute for relationships. I recently heard a 30-year veteran of ministry among the urban poor say, “Your church would be better off to get to know 10 families struggling in poverty than to give away 1,000 meals.”

4. Most churches do not have a strategy for alleviating poverty. If they have anything, it is a few disjointed projects pasted together.

What is your strategy?

The good news is there are tons of resources to help your church. I will recommend three:
“Becoming Whole” by Brian Fickkert and Kelly Kapic (Book)
“Agents of Flourishing” by Amy Sherman
“PovertyCure: From Aid to Enterprise” Video

Brothers and sisters, we can I must do better!

Randy Chestnut, Executive Director of the Life Enrichment Center