When Helping Hurts: The Small Group Experience

Mercy ministry is intimately tied to the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus was a preacher and a healer. Wherever he went, he did both because God cares about people. Not just souls. Not just bodies. But people holistically. So if gospel-loving Christians are to follow Jesus, we must be engaged in the ministry of mercy.

However, this is where following Jesus too often becomes difficult, messy, confusing, and complicated. Believers who have done more than dip their toes in the waters of mercy discover that good intentions are not enough. In the fallen world in which we live, the help we offer sometimes does more harm than good--in the short- and long-term. This adult Sunday School class seeks to wrestle with the problems associated with involvement in mercy ministry by learning from Scripture, and from mercy ministry veterans who have thought deeply and practiced humbly the gospel call to extend mercy.

Our class resource is an online video-based study on alleviating poverty, written by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, produced by The Chalmers Center at Covenant College, called When Helping Hurts: The Small Group Experience.

From the handbook's back cover:

"When Helping Hurts offers a different framework for thinking about poverty and its alleviation. Rather than simply defining it as a lack of material things, the book addresses the roots of the issue: broken relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. Online videos are included. The Small Group Experience, an ideal resource for small groups, Sunday school classes, and parachurch and nonprofit ministries, unpacks the basic principles of poverty alleviation in an accessible way. Each of the six lessons includes discussion questions, application exercises, and materials for further learning. Join the many ministries and churches that are already implementing these ideas, transforming their culture of poverty alleviation, and moving toward helping the poor without hurting them."

For our class format, we will divide each lesson or "session" into two weeks. The first week we will introduce the subject, watch the video, and briefly discuss. The second week we will "go deeper" into the previous week's subject by considering additional biblical, worldview, and practical aspects of the lesson.

One of the great dangers of doing a When Helping Hurts study is using newfound knowledge as an excuse to not get involved or help. That is not the fault of the presentation. The fault can only reside in the fallen and sinful human heart that seeks out reasons to justify not helping in order to not risk hurting. Keep this spiritual hazard prayerfully in mind so that your heart might grow soft and merciful rather than hard and judgmental.

Session One

Week 1: Reconsidering the Meaning of Poverty (video & slides)

Week 2: Going Deeper into Reconsidering the Meaning of Poverty (slides)

Session Two

Week 3: Seeing God at Work (video & slides)

Week 4: Going Deeper into Seeing God at Work

Session Three

Week 5: Understanding Why Good Intentions Are Not Enough (video & slides)

Week 6: Going Deeper into Understanding Why Good Intentions Are Not Enough

Session Four

Week 7: Joining God's Work (video & slides)

Week 8: Going Deeper into Joining God's Work

Session Five

Week 9: Fostering Change (video & slides)

Week 10: Going Deeper into Fostering Change

Session Six

Week 11: Moving Forward (video & slides)

Week 12: Going Deeper into Moving Forward

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