Jeff is a director at a prominent faith-based nonprofit in the Midwest. For his first 10 years, he worked with 40–50 different inner-city churches.
“We would provide backpacks and ‘boxes of love’ through local churches to kids, as well as bring in summer-long college interns who worked in the different churches over the summer. Our goal was to connect people to relationships that led to ongoing discipleship and growth. But after a decade using this approach, I realized things were not working as we had hoped. We were not seeing people moving out of the dependency cycle, nor were people connecting with the local church.”
Jeff began searching for some answers and came across Acton Institute material online. He then attended Acton University, and the ideas he encountered radically changed his thinking and practice.
“I realized the importance of working out of a healthy anthropology … for the benefit of the community and life of the world. I saw that in our ‘charitable’ acts, we often don’t respect the poor as image bearers and gifted people, and we end up sliding into a ‘benefactor’ relationship where we pity the poor instead of recognizing their dignity.”
Today, Jeff focuses on a smaller group of churches in his city that is already working to move people out of what he calls “dignity-destroying dependency.”
“We want to help churches either create or find pathways for people to fully flourish as human beings under the lordship of Christ.”
Jeff’s team, together with local church pastors, is retooling to help churches move people from dependency toward legitimate, self-sustainable employment.
Some of the foundational tools Jeff now uses to educate his staff and colleagues include “Poverty Cure,” “The Birth of Freedom,” and “For the Life of the World,” some of Acton’s top educational work over the years. From ideas he learned through Acton, he has also revised his own teachings, emphasizing God’s heart for the poor, the cause of poverty, learning to love a city, and the value of free markets in addressing issues of poverty.