Words matter. The change of one simple word in a phrase can make all the difference.
Words convey a message, which is why it is so important for us to consider the difference between “ministry to/for the poor”, and “ministry with the poor.” The change of a single word makes ministry look different.
At its most basic, one form of ministry is a hand out and the other is a hand up. One form of ministry is hands–off, and the other is relational. One form of ministry will help someone out, and the other will transform lives.
It is crucial that in our churches we put an emphasis on ministry with the poor.
Why is that? When we are in ministry with, rather than to or for, we are respecting cultures, practices, resources, and giftedness of any given people or community. In ministry with we take the time learn names, stories, and real needs. Ministry with takes out the assumptions we tend to make about people and situations. It empowers and equips people to live into God’s reality for them.
When I’ve visited places of brokenness, poverty, and suffering, both in my community and abroad, in most cases what I’ve witnessed are not needy, helpless people. Instead I’ve met hard-working, passionate, creative, faithful people who don’t need someone to do for them, but rather someone to walk alongside them, offering support, resources, or a hand when needed.
Photo: Muhammad Taufik, Unsplash