Recommended Reading: Books

Reading is a great way to grow in knowledge and imagination. There is so much outside my life experience and reading helps me start to see how my neighbors’ lives might be different from mine. These books are some of my favorites on poverty and racial division/reconciliation.

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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016, Desmond)

“Eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.” (Desmond)

 

 

 

 

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How it Defines Our Lives (2014, Mullainathan & Shafir)

These authors show how experiencing scarcity affects how we think and how we solve problems. They separate the situation of scarcity from the person who is living with it. Very relevant to living in poverty, which is an environment characterized by scarcity.

 

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (2000, Emerson & Smith)

An insightful, methodical examination of how the church explicitly opposes racism but structurally recreates a society divided by race. We cannot change what we do not see. This book revealed layers to our racial division that I could not see before.

 

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces the Keep Us Apart (2013, Cleveland)

Class, race, doctrine, geography… there are so many things that separate us. What does it mean to be one in Christ? Can we draw the circle of “us” so that it truly includes everyone? Cleveland explores this with wisdom and grace.

 

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America (2015, Edin & Shaefer)

A vivid picture of some individual families living in a very unstable situation. It also has a helpful overview of the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill, including what the policymakers’ goals were and how it has fallen short.

 

 

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000, Putnam)

We are disconnected from each other and from our communities. This book explores how that happened and why it matters.

 

 

 

When Helping Hurts book coverWhen Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself  (2009, Corbett & Fikkert)

What is the church’s role in alleviating poverty? This book is excellent. It is the basis of the video-based class I teach.

 

 

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping (1994, Sapolsky)

Smart and funny. Especially worthwhile if you are interested in the relationship between socio-economic status and health.

How to Gather Volunteers

Every week a miracle happens here and you are part of it. This was the start of an announcement at the end of the worship service one week. I expected the next sentence to be something about communion, or prayer.

Every week, after worship, we work together to put away all these chairs (150-200 folding chairs) and it happens in no time because so many of you help. That’s a miracle.

Our volunteer-recruiter went on to talk about forming teams to set up the chairs before the service — no less amazing, but less miraculous-seeming  because it requires planning.

Continue reading “How to Gather Volunteers”

Four Steps to Helping Your Community

Do you ever wonder what you can do to make a difference in your community? As in, what action can you take that will create positive change?

Step 1: Hang around some people.

People spending time together is the core of an essential resource for healthy communities. Sociologists call it social capital. Most people call it being involved, hanging out, serving, attending, joining.

community-working-togetherAny kind of activity people do together builds social connections. Having friends for dinner, going to church, voting, attending public meetings, chatting with neighbors.

Strong social capital in a community is connected with better life for everyone in that community. If lots of other people go to school board meetings and speak up for the needs of families, everyone in the community benefits from better schools — whether they attend meetings or not. Continue reading “Four Steps to Helping Your Community”

Offensive Equality

Recently one of the readings in church was the parable of the workers in the vineyard from the gospel of Matthew. It’s a story of the upside-down-ness of God’s kingdom, and I noticed something I’ve never thought about before. Equality is what gets everyone really angry.

Parable-of-Vineyard-Workers-Law-and-Grace-1-10-BT-fs2For the kingdom of heaven is like… Jesus begins. It’s like a business owner who goes out to hire workers for a day. He hires some guys and they agree to $100 for a day’s work.

Later that day, the business owner goes out and hires some more folks. Then later he does it again. Continue reading “Offensive Equality”

Churches Have More to Share Than Jesus and Our Money

In my (limited) experience, church people work together to connect with the world mainly in two ways: to tell about Jesus, and to share our money. Mostly, we give our money to other groups working to tell about Jesus or fight poverty.

Sharing Jesus and sharing money are good things to do. If you are doing these things, I support you.

But I think we are overlooking something important. Continue reading “Churches Have More to Share Than Jesus and Our Money”