Many congregations are challenged with how best to serve the poor—how to help without hurting. At EHF, we know about the powerful connection between health and economic insecurity.
When families can’t afford what they need to lead a healthy life, have weak social connections and resources, and experience chronic stress resulting from living poverty, they often experience illness as consequence.
Bridges Out of Poverty teaches that a person’s mindset and worldview differ based on a life in poverty, the middle class or the upper class. It’s important for churches, social service agencies and other public institutions to gain a deeper understanding of the strengths and challenges of those living in poverty.
Without this understanding, a disconnect often exists between those working in institutions and the populations they’re trying to serve. The Bridges Out of Poverty training and corresponding workshops seek to educate people across classes about poverty, the underlying causes, and how to find solutions to move toward the path of self-sufficiency.
Bridges Out of Poverty is a community support program developed by Dr. Ruby Payne, which provides a general overview of poverty and addresses strategies for finding feasible solutions. The training is intended to educate local leaders, clergy, community groups, local agencies and volunteers on the issues many people encounter daily and help them develop an understanding of how to most effectively serve in a way that transforms the community by addressing the underlying causes.
Alyssa Stebbing, Director of Outreach at Trinity Episcopal Church in The Woodlands, is certified to offer the Bridges Out of Poverty training. Trinity now requires everyone leading outreach ministries to attend this training.
“It helps build relationships,” Stebbing says. “People have a better understanding of what they can expect and learn how to respond. It’s a slow process but it helps change mindsets.”
In addition to providing the training in her own community, Stebbing has also offered it to the board of directors at Lord of the Streets in Houston, and to clergy, outreach leaders and youth at Good Shepherd Episcopal in Friendswood.
In order to reach more people with the valuable training, EHF has recently supported the certification of five new trainers from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas: Jem Marshall and Melodee Toles from EHF’s staff, Deacon Mary Reddick from Ascension- Houston, Claire Soard from St. Thomas’ Wharton, and Jean Kegler with Epiphany Houston and a consultant for EHF. The group is excited to offer the training in their own congregations and with any others that request it. The training can be customized to meet the needs of the congregation and can be done as an intensive day or half-day workshops to introduce the basic concepts and framework.
Congregations can play and pivotal role in building a more sustainable community by taking the knowledge and tools from the Bridges Out of Poverty training to develop programs such as life skills classes (i.e. parenting, financial literacy, etc.), integrate tools into existing outreach ministries, and partner with other organizations or churches to work within the same community to tackle a common issue.
Abbreviated workshops can also be used in adult formation class, Sunday School or as a short series for parishioners.
More resources and information about poverty and health can be found in EHF’s online Resource Center. If your congregation is interested in Bridges Out of Poverty training or other ways to approach the issues of poverty in your community, please email us. We’d love to speak with you!