Many readers who drop in here continue to tell me that "the church should take care of the poor."
Usually, this sentiment is expressed in opposition to the notion that sound public policy decisons and government institutions must play a major role in addressing the large issues associated with domestic and/or foreign poverty.
For lots of people this question is fundamental and philosophical. Such a notion often reveals the sort of political theory that prevades many Evangelical churches.
Here is a fact: in 2005, churches provided just 4.2% of our total revenue.
So, I have some questions for church folk.
What percentage of your church's total budget goes to address the needs of the poor in your community? around the world?
What sort of programs or initiatives does your community of faith develop and offer in your community? Are they project oriented? Or, do they result in long term commitment to communities of need?
How does your church respond to the health care needs of the uninsured, working people in your community? How many low-income persons receive health insurance coverage from your community of faith?
How does your church respond to the affordable housing needs of your community? How many units of affordable housing did your church develop last year? What are your plans for the future?
What does your church do to assist working people improve their skills so that they can command better wages in return for their work?
Does your church provide comprehensive, social work case management for the poor who show up at the door of your sanctuary?
What programs has your church developed to be present with children in after school situations, especially in the low-income neighborhoods in your community?
How has your church responded to the mental health needs of your community? Has your church developed and offered drug and addiction treatment programs to your community? How many mental health professionals are on your church's staff?
What sorts of programs has your church developed to meet the child care needs of two-income, working families? Of families headed by single parents?
What does your church do to assist low-income, working families with rental and utility assistance? How many of these families do you serve annually?
What level of scholarship assistance does your church offer to students seeking higher education opportunities from low-income families? What sort of mentoring, after school and academic advancement ministries does your church offer the community? Does your church offer any college prep courses (pre-SAT, etc.) for low-income students?
Does your church or faith community have a plan to assist low-income working people with dependable transportation?
How often at your church do you receive training for addressing the daily needs of the poor and the homeless in your community?
Serious students of poverty and life in America will reach the conclusion that churches and other faith communities are simply not up to the comprehensive challenge of addressing the multiple problems facing poor persons and families in the United States without public assistance.
To be sure, churches have an important role to play (likely material for a future post).
But, poverty will not be overcome by the efforts of private sector players alone. What is needed is a multi-faceted assault on poverty with sound and aggressive public policy solutions playing a very large role.
Announcement from Duke Memorial UMC
1 week ago