Over the last year, you may have heard Bethlehem Church and other agencies/organizations reference about the book Toxic Charity, by Robert Lupton. Many agencies and churches have made adjustments to their programs in response to this book, but as a community we have yet to make the decision to fully implement the principles it describes. HNCP is proposing a year-long initiative called, “Helpful Charity Next Steps”. The goal of this initiative is to change the culture of well-intended, but often uninformed, charity by increasing collaboration and communication between systems as well as educating the community.
In hopes of this being a truly collaborative effort, HNCP has invited a number of agencies to participate in this initiative. The list of invited agencies includes Access of West Michigan, which has connections to West Michigan churches, Heartside Social Service Agencies which include Catholic Charities of West Michigan, Degage Ministry, Dwelling Place, Family Promise of Grand Rapids, Guiding Light Mission, Heartside Ministry, and Mel Trotter Ministries as well as United Way, which has a wealth of knowledge around community needs and connections to businesses. Grand Rapids churches have always helped those in need and many times have taken a literal approach in helping (i.e. if someone is thirsty give him or her a drink, if someone is hungry give him or her a meal).
The issue is often that churches & volunteers are disconnected from actual needs in the Heartside Neighborhood and there tends to be a focus on short-term solutions rather than solutions that will have a greater impact in the long-term. So how does the Heartside community start to tackle these systemic issues? Through the “Helpful Charity Next Steps Initiative”. HNCP is proposing executive directors of the social service agencies use their connections with churches and donors to set up meetings to inform and start communicating using the same language. We are also proposing quarterly meetings with Heartside volunteer coordinators, a shared online resources board for Heartside volunteer coordinators, and community trainings for volunteers and businesses.
There is an energy in the air to do things better. Working collaboratively to change culture is difficult work, but if we can encourage churches and business to not only meet immediate needs, but to be part of long-term change, we can truly make a difference!