01 Perceptions of Poverty

Perceptions of Poverty


A Summary of American Opinions
About the World’s Poor

Poverty, in the most basic terms, refers to not having enough. But beyond that simple definition, the meaning and reality of poverty become very complicated—not to mention that the criterion of “enough” depends on one’s context and can vary by age, climate, health and local economy.

The World Bank has created one measure, based on the cost of goods necessary for people to survive, that can be applied broadly to global material poverty. That international extreme poverty line is $1.90 a day (about $700 a year) or less.2 According to this international poverty standard, there is good news: a drop of 200 million people living in poverty between 2012 and 2015. The bigger picture is also encouraging: in 1990, the world poverty rate was 35 percent. Since then, 1.1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty.3

Of course, that still leaves an estimated 700 million people—11 percent of the world’s current population—living in extreme poverty.4 Half of the people in extreme poverty live in Sub-Saharan Africa, 13.5 percent in South Asia and 12 percent live in East Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa’s poverty levels are declining slower than the rest of the world’s; many countries in this region have poverty rates well over 50 percent. In Zimbabwe, for example, the rate of people living in poverty is as high as 72 percent.5

Rates are typically high in areas of conflict, such as Afghanistan (36%), Pakistan (30%) and Iraq (23%), where the effects of poverty are brutal and ever-present.6 Diseases like polio which have been stamped out in wealthier countries continue to take away lives and the ability to work in Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.7 Poisonous air pollutants, such as ammonia, are concentrated in cities with poorer populations, such as Lagos, Nigeria; Delhi, India; and Bangkok, Thailand.8 The countries whose citizens witness the highest levels of corruption also tend to be among the world’s poorest, led by Somalia, South Sudan, North Korea and Syria.9

Ultimately, these percentages and definitions can never tell the full story of poverty, one that entraps individuals around the world and manifests not only in financial scarcity, but exploitation, illness and isolation. Extreme poverty, by global standards, is also something very few American adults experience or even encounter, certainly not frequently enough to have perspective on its life cycle.

Yet, when using these widely accepted barometers for the severity of poverty, there is notable progress to report: The global trend is one of less and less extreme poverty. This report’s title—The Good News About Global Poverty— refers chiefly to this fact, as well as the demonstrated power of compassion and optimism in addressing poverty and the U.S. Church’s role in facilitating justice for the poor, a principal component of the “good news” all Christians are called to share. If the recorded decline in worldwide poverty is not yet cause for celebration, it’s at least reason to hope and—following the lead of the Church in the developing world—incentive to continue chipping away at poverty and its effects. Backed by decades of verifiable improvement, now is not a time for complacency, but for building momentum and elucidating effective methods.

First, however, Americans might need a crash course on the facts about poverty.

What People Don’t Know
About Poverty (Yet)

When Barna polled U.S. adults to see if they believe poverty is growing, shrinking or holding steady, it became clear that public understanding has not kept up with the gradual reduction in global poverty. Overall, people are unaware of the positive direction in which poverty has moved over the last 25 years. Although extreme global poverty has fallen by 24 percentage points since 1990, most U.S. adults (70%) believe it has increased.

This misconception is still a bit less bleak than it was in the past. The percentage of adults who gave an answer in line with the World Bank’s encouraging report increased by 6 points, to 13 percent, since a 2011 study.

Americans—especially younger ones—feel urgency surrounding poverty; nine out of 10 (91%) are troubled when reminded of the great number of people who do not have access to clean water, sufficient food, clothing, shelter or basic medicine. One-fourth (24%) selects an “extreme” level of concern for the global poor, even in light of the many pressing issues facing Americans today. (In the next chapter, we’ll delve into the sincerity and practical application of this sentiment.)

Despite Lack of Knowledge,
Christians Express Deep Concern

Compared to the general population, Christians, including practicing ones, are similarly oblivious that international poverty is improving. Those who meet Barna’s definition of “evangelical” (see glossary in the Appendix for details) are the least likely group (9%) to say they already knew about a 25year reduction in global poverty—though it’s possible they are merely the group most likely to admit being unaware!

Regardless of their understanding of the current global poverty levels, the faithful consistently report a concern for it. After all, they’ve had good teachers: As long as there has been a Church, addressing poverty has been a focus of its texts and its programs. Some monastic orders, the U.S. School Lunch Program, individuals like George Mueller or Mother Teresa and the multifaceted efforts of faith-based, non-governmental organizations are just some of the relatively recent testaments to this religiously motivated generosity. Among practicing Christians today, reported concern for extreme global poverty holds strong. The vast majority (94%) is at least somewhat concerned, one-third “extremely” so (34%), consistent with percentages in 2011.

This sensitivity is permeated by positivity, as practicing Christians are relatively hopeful about their ability to affect poverty. A majority feels they personally could make a substantial difference locally (19% “major” + 44% “some”) or for children in extreme poverty (18% “major” + 34% “some”). Their ambition lags a bit when focusing on global poverty as a whole: The plurality (31%) assumes only a “minor” impact is possible. Non-practicing Christians, however, show patterns of feeling unable to help with these big issues. Just one in four says they personally could affect international poverty on more than a minor level (6% “major,” 18% “some”).

Though U.S. adults’ low awareness of poverty levels might be disconcerting, it shouldn’t be assumed that a lack of information goes hand-in-hand with a lack of engagement. Those who say they have volunteered for or donated to end poverty, globally and locally, are not any more likely to have updated, accurate numbers on poverty. The puzzling yet reassuring truth is that many Americans have eagerly partnered with the developing world and contributed to global poverty’s decline even while relatively unaware of its nature or extent. Looking forward, the hope and the challenge, specifically for the U.S. Church, are the same: How much broader, richer and more effective could our contributions be if they were also well-informed?

How People Prioritize Poverty

Given the range of causes that present themselves to U.S. adults, how do they prioritize their participation in addressing the world’s problems—and poverty among them?

Barna asked respondents to identify social issues they feel are important to personally support. Practicing Christians’ responses are generally similar to the national averages, peaking with clean water (89%, compared to 92% average) which has perhaps been mainstreamed by its emphasis in digital campaigns and international development goals in recent years. Practicing Christians also align with all U.S. adults in showing significant attention to child trafficking (88%, compared to 85% average), orphan and foster care (87%, compared to 79% average), education (87% each) and children in extreme poverty (87%, compared to 88% average). Child evangelism (61%) and church-building (67%) are, understandably, more popular endeavors among this religious group.



The standard for extreme poverty is living on $1.90 or less per day.

By recent estimates, 10.7% of the world’s population, including 2% of the U.S. population, lives in extreme poverty.

Since 1990, the global poverty rate has dropped by 24 percentage points.

One of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals was to halve the 1990 poverty rate (35%) by 2015. The world accomplished this by 2010.

More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990.

Additional source: “Poverty Overview,” The World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview

Once respondents noted all of the issues they believed were important to personally address, they were then asked to hone this list by selecting their top three priorities. Though results remain staggered, prompting respondents to be more specific significantly boosted one concern to the top of the list: One in four U.S. adults (25%) prioritizes taking action on childhood education, followed by local poverty (24%) and environmental issues (15%).

There are predictable divergences on social issues that have more political associations, a central theme of responses throughout the survey. Consider how the environment, global warming and refugee response have become major partisan issues, particularly in the time this survey was conducted. Political activism itself is rarely an expressed priority for practicing Christians, so it’s not surprising that seemingly politically contentious subjects are among the least popular issues for this group.

Global poverty (6%) stands out among causes that less often inspire personal support. Those of other faiths (15%) are actually more likely than practicing Christians (8%) to feel drawn toward this option, despite Christians’ high levels of reported concern for international poverty. It’s possible that those of other faiths, which include Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, are more keenly aware of poor regions in which theirs is the majority religion or still feel a connection to nations from which their families or faith communities emigrated.

However, as both global and local poverty were presented neutrally alongside other issues that they technically encompass, specificity in how people would like to help alleviate poverty shouldn’t be confused with an apathy toward poverty in general. (See Susan Mettes’ column on page 70 for more insight.) In absolute terms, practicing Christians still have poverty on their radar. After all, 26 percent of practicing Christians include local poverty and 18 percent include children in extreme poverty in their top three social issues. Further, even when Christians—and all adults, for that matter—do not select the general categories about poverty, they indicate a desire for personal involvement in a number of interventions that prevent poverty or its noneconomic symptoms. Direct, specific actions appear more manageable than aiming to address “global poverty” as a broad category, which can feel like an amorphous, overwhelming task to prioritize. For example, practicing Christians are even more motivated to personally undertake initiatives related to helping children. They fall in line with all U.S. adults in emphasizing education (25%), then round out their top three social issues with children in extreme poverty (18%) and child trafficking (14%).

Americans Weigh the Solutions

There is no one-size-fits-all fix for poverty, and an overwhelming number of anti-poverty agencies address the issue from various angles. Many of these organizations agree with UNICEF that the best way to address poverty is early in life, with young children—a promising approach, given the attention the public says they give to such causes, as already mentioned in this report.10 But efforts to reduce poverty take myriad forms.

When asked what might be most effective in alleviating poverty, U.S. adults point to the same issue in which they would prefer to be involved: education. One in four (25%) sees this as the best route. They believe least in the power of spiritual health to address poverty (38% “least effective”).




This study indicates that specific rather than vague goals could seem more approachable or manageable to donors and volunteers. For pastors looking to energize the compassion and generosity of congregants, it helps to be precise.

Does your church rally around any specific long-term giving projects? Are there organizations that your congregants already represent or support that you could highlight or partner with?

Church leaders, choose one or two issues to focus on for at least the next year. Plan specific moments to highlight the cause and communicate clear, measurable goals. Maybe an expert could be a guest speaker and help present a particular project within the framework of poverty alleviation.

Practicing Christians view things differently; they give quite a lot of credit to spiritual health for lifting people out of poverty. More than one in five (22%) calls this the most effective solution, tying with education. On many other issues, including mental well-being, finances and socioeconomic status, their views are similar to all U.S. adults, though they put very little stock in political conditions (34% “least effective”).

The general population is split on the influence of politics in poverty; though one-quarter (25%) calls it the least impactful answer, one-fifth gives an opposite assessment (19% say it’s “most effective”).

There are good reasons to pursue each one of these methods at some point while attempting to improve a person’s life and work against poverty. Many humanitarian organizations advocate for a holistic approach that incorporates multiple interventions: education, medicine, financial instruction, mental and emotional health, political conditions, socioeconomic status and spiritual well-being.

Assigning Responsibility for Poverty

The groups and programs that can be acknowledged for limiting poverty’s reach are many and belong to various institutions. In the U.S., government programs such as Medicare and Social Security have been credited by some for lifting many out of poverty.11 Meanwhile, the efforts of non-governmental organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation have been credited with the Green Revolution, which raised crop yields in Asia and Mexico dramatically.12 Businesses have implemented interventions such as iodized salt, which raised the average IQ in the United States,13 and Fortune 500 companies see mutual advantage in pushing against corruption and for jobs in poor countries.14

Sometimes the illness and the cure are provided by the same body. For instance, any student of humanitarian efforts will have heard that famine is a political problem,15 especially in an age when there is enough food for everyone on earth.16 While poverty and corruption do go hand-in-hand,17 poor governments often spend much of their income as major employers and have difficulty balancing the overhead expense with services to citizens.18 The story of global poverty, in other words, is complicated.

One aspect of poverty reduction, on the surface, does appear simple to U.S. adults, including Christians: They count on the government to take the lead in addressing it. All U.S. adults and practicing Christians are most likely to say the government of the country needing aid bears primary responsibility (39% and 33%, respectively). Almost equal numbers of each group say it falls on the shoulders of non-profit and humanitarian organizations, whether international (29% U.S. adults, 31% practicing Christians) or local (8% U.S. adults, 6% practicing Christians).

Opinions about the parties that are ultimately responsible correlate to a sense of personal influence as well. Those who defer to governments as responsible for global poverty are less likely than others to believe they can personally have an impact on global poverty, with only one in five (20%) saying they can make more than a minor difference. Those who think non-profits carry primary responsibility have only moderately better opinions of their own potential impact (7% “major” + 27% “some” difference). Meanwhile, those who think churches or individuals are primarily responsible are much more convinced that they too can make a difference (47% and 45%, respectively).

If anyone holds churches accountable for addressing global poverty, it’s Christians, and evangelicals most of all (17%). On the other hand, only one percent of people with no faith and none of those who subscribe to other religions believe that churches are primarily responsible for dealing with poverty overseas. Any sense that addressing extreme poverty is a responsibility of the Church comes from within the Church. Christians promote this strategy even more so for domestic poverty; one-third of evangelicals (32%) feels churches hold primary responsibility. Practicing Christians (15%) affirm this to a smaller degree, though still three times more than all U.S. adults (5%), and at a significant jump from the 6 percent of practicing Christians who felt this way in 2007.

These responses correspond to a Christian understanding that the Church has an obligation to the poor and that faith is integral in poverty alleviation. Self-identified Christians are generally in agreement that the Bible directly instructs them to help those living in poverty (79% agree at least somewhat), and practicing Christians assert this truth with even more force (47% strongly agree). Most also have a conviction that anti-poverty work is beneficial for both the recipients and those ministering to or providing for them. A majority of Christians (84%) agrees to some extent that “helping the poor helps Christians understand the heart of Christ more deeply.” Again, practicing Christians are even more likely to cling to these spiritual constructs of anti-poverty efforts (57% agree strongly, 37% agree somewhat).

Some Christians see anti-poverty work as the litmus test for sincere faith: They believe that on one side, there are Christians who are actively working to help the poor, and on the other side… well, there are people who “are not true Christians.” This firm stance isn’t widely accepted. Similar percentages fall across the spectrum of agreement (22% strongly agree, 27% somewhat agree, 25% somewhat disagree, 23% strongly disagree). In this case, practicing Christians are a little more willing to set this standard; 57 percent agree at least somewhat that authentic Christians are those who help the impoverished.

An idea that gains less traction among believers is that poverty is somehow inevitable, the result of the sin of man and a blight on creation until Christ’s return. More than a third of Christians (37%) disagrees strongly with this perspective. Practicing Christians are slightly more resigned to this idea; one-fifth (21%) strongly agrees.

Ultimately, viewing poverty as predestined and permanent doesn’t jibe with Christians’ confidence that it can be overcome—and that they can help. At another point in the survey, Barna asked respondents to indicate on a sliding scale whether the task of ending global poverty—specifically within the next 25 years—falls on them or someone else. Overall, Americans’ views on this duty have been clarified over the last few years, moving more to the precise ends of the scale—“my job” or “someone else’s job”—rather than a shared middle. More than U.S. adults in general, practicing Christians feel a sense of personal responsibility to help end poverty (53%, 17% of whom do so entirely).

The Big Question:
Can We End Poverty?

Before moving on to look at the ways that people actually use their time and resources to confront poverty, Barna wanted to know: Do people really believe that the problem of poverty could cease to exist—within our lifetime?

When given a sliding scale to describe how they feel about ending poverty in the next 25 years, equal percentages of U.S. adults (15%) select either extreme—definitely “doable” or “not doable”—though a majority leans toward this outcome being feasible. Though Americans tend to see this mission as “inspiring ” (29% at the highest level) they are still completely split on whether it is “believable” or “not believable” (45% fall on either side of the scale, 10%
are neutral).

Practicing Christians’ optimism about defeating poverty is rising with time; on all points, there is a roughly 10-percentage-point increase in the view that ending poverty in the next quarter of a century is an extremely worthy and realistic goal.

Younger generations are more inclined to think positively about poverty’s potential end. Millennials surpass other generations in feeling the highest degree of inspiration and are most likely to find the idea of ending poverty extremely doable. Meanwhile, Elders are twice as likely as Millennials to think it’s not possible to end poverty in 25 years, and few Elders are very inspired by this goal.

Some of the most privileged groups of Americans are unfortunately the least likely to have high hopes about the global poverty fight. For instance, ethnic minorities are more likely than white Americans to rate the idea of ending poverty as highly inspirational (35% vs. 26%), believable (23% vs. 13%) and doable (21% vs. 12%).

Educated adults usually have muted responses to these questions. College graduates are less likely to regard the idea of ending poverty as very inspirational (24%, compared to 33% of high school graduates). The proportion of U.S. adults who see ending poverty as extremely believable declines significantly for those who have completed even some college (16%, compared to 25% of high school graduates) and continues to drop among those who are college graduates (11%). Prosperous groups are also less likely to have a positive outlook on poverty, even though it could be argued they have greater resources to tackle the problem. Those who make less than $50,000 a year—which, on the lower end of the scale, would include some considered to be living in poverty themselves—are more likely than higher earners to find the idea of ending poverty extremely inspirational (33% vs. 26% who earn $50,000–$100,000), believable (21% vs. 14) and doable (19% vs. 13%).

In the following chapter, we’ll cover how those with firsthand experiences of poverty are the most trusted voices on the subject. This is another piece of good news, as those who are marginalized or touched by poverty cling to their confidence that it can be overcome—and hope remains a valuable currency in addressing global scarcity.



U.S. adults with more education are typically less concerned or optimistic about ending poverty. It’s possible that being exposed to many ideas leaves one struggling to see urgency or hope in particular issues, especially in light of how overwhelming the world’s problems are.

Highly educated adults—who less often live in poverty themselves, yet may have more resources to give to those in need—could use reminders of the tangible, positive impact of their contributions. Encouraging volunteering and elevating impoverished voices fosters relational (not just intellectual or financial) engagement in anti-poverty work.

An Ideological Impasse

When politics and faith mix, it has a confounding—and sometimes counterintuitive—influence on how people address poverty

As in most discussions about complex topics in the U.S. today, political ideologies prove divisive when it comes to poverty. Simply put: Conservatives and liberals hold very different beliefs on the subject of poverty. They disagree on the root causes of poverty. They disagree on who should be responsible for caring for the poor. They disagree on which issues of poverty are most urgent. They disagree, even, on the reasons people don’t donate to the poor. These beliefs, inevitably, affect people’s actual engagement around fighting poverty as well.

The issue of poverty is certainly not a politically neutral one, and those politics seep into churches. While serving the poor may not seem like a controversial issue for Christians—scripture is, after all, very clear on the Church’s mandate to do so—the what, how, why and who are greatly influenced by a Christian’s political leaning. Thus, pastors, unfortunately, must be aware of the political minefields surrounding issues of poverty and learn to navigate them effectively. In doing so, hopefully churches can be united through their work for the poor—not divided by it.
Let’s take a look at how politics influences issues around poverty— both within and without the Church.

What Is Our Responsibility?

Practicing Christians—regardless of whether they are liberal or conservative—are more likely to take responsibility for serving the poor. This is good news for pastors and churches! However, conservatives and liberals overall (both inside and outside the Church) differ on what they believe is their personal responsibility. They also have a deep ideological difference in what they see as the barriers to taking personal action against poverty.

In general, liberals express more concern than conservatives around issues of poverty. Americans who identify as politically liberal are twice as likely to report extreme concern for global poverty (37% vs. 19% of self-identified political conservatives). Conservatives—especially Boomers and Elders—are much less inclined to say it’s important to be personally involved on global poverty (43% vs. 71%). Conservatives tend to be more concerned with local poverty—though still at slightly lower levels than liberals (78% vs. 83%).

Things change when you look only at practicing Christians. Active faith has a strong positive influence on people’s engagement with the poor, regardless of political ideology. It’s important to note that Christian conservatives far outnumber practicing Christian liberals—about half of practicing Christians consider themselves conservative, one-third is moderate, and only one in seven says their beliefs about political and social issues are liberal. Due to the small sample size of practicing Christians with liberal social values, Barna has combined them with moderates here for the purpose of analysis. The results show that an active faith indeed produces some consistency in ideas about and engagement with the poor.

Some gaps do remain between conservative and moderate / liberal practicing Christians in their reported activities, and even more so in their mindsets. Though the presence of an active faith increases the chance that non-conservatives will feel concern about poverty or other issues, it has less effect among conservatives. For instance, nearly half of practicing Christians who identify as liberal or moderate (42%) express extreme concern about global poverty, while conservative practicing Christians align with the average American (26%).

Beyond their expressed levels of concern, practicing Christians, regardless of political ideology, are more likely than all other respondents of their same political leanings to report getting involved. Among liberals, that usually means volunteering more time; among conservatives, that usually means donating more dollars. This spike in engagement is directed toward a variety of causes, particularly places of worship.

So what is it that stops people from engaging? Relevant for pastors and spiritual leaders who are working to activate their congregants around issues of poverty, conservatives and liberals point to fundamentally different roots for their skepticism. When asked what keeps people from taking actions to reduce poverty, liberals highlight a lack of hope and conservatives highlight a lack of trust. While liberals indicate people might hold back because they don’t know where to start (40%), don’t believe poverty is solvable (40%) or doubt their own ability to make a difference (39%), conservatives assume the greatest obstacles are a lack of confidence in the governments of poor countries (36%), in non-profit organizations (33%) or in the wisdom of spending on foreign rather than domestic concerns (33%).

How Do We Best Fight Poverty?

One thing both liberals and conservatives agree on: It’s not an individual’s job to fight global poverty—and, in fact, the two groups share a sense of personal helplessness. Fewer than one in 10 from either ideological camp agrees to the statement, “I could have a major influence on global poverty.” Accordingly, just 6 percent of each group assign primary responsibility for global poverty to individuals donating through non-profit organizations.

However, when you expand beyond personal responsibility to liberals’ and conservatives’ ideas of who (or what) is accountable for global poverty, some important distinctions emerge. While both liberals (37%) and conservatives (33%) feel the governments in poor nations are crucial in caring for their poor, liberals lean on non-profits (39% vs. 24% of conservatives), whereas conservatives are more likely than liberals to consider churches (7% vs. 2% of liberals) or individual citizens of that nation (12% vs. 6% of liberals) as an authority. Unsurprisingly, practicing Christians in each group are slightly more likely to place responsibility on churches (14% of practicing Christian conservatives and 6% of practicing Christian moderates and liberals).

Why Does Poverty Exist?

Perhaps the greatest ideological divide between conservatives and liberals on the subject of poverty is why it exists in the first place. Conservatives believe individuals have a significant measure of agency in their situation, whereas liberals point to broader, systemic issues as the cause for poverty. More than half of conservatives (52%) feel “everyone has an equal opportunity to climb out of poverty, and no one has to be poor,” an idea that less than a third of liberals (31%) supports. One in four conservatives (26%), versus 17 percent of liberals, attributes poverty to a person’s laziness or unwillingness to work. The proportion of conservatives who disagree that poverty could be caused by a lack of sensitivity to human need (54%) or the greed of powerful, wealthy nations (51%) doubles that of liberals (27% and 22%, respectively). Conservatives are also more inclined toward the idea that “poverty is an inevitable result of the sin of man and will exist until Christ returns” (42% agree, compared to 32% of liberals).

Who Should We Help?

There are poignant divides between liberals and conservatives when it comes to who and what they choose to support in the fight against poverty. It’s not hard to see the connections to political messaging reflected in conservatives’ comparatively low general interest in supporting environmental causes (56%, compared to 85% of liberals) economic development in poor countries (63%, compared to 81% of liberals), empowering girls (62%, compared to 84% of liberals), refugee response (31%, compared to 67% of liberals) and global warming (37%, compared to 85% of liberals). On less politically entrenched topics, conservatives are more inclined to be supportive, though still at consistently lower rates than liberals. This trend continues with activities specific to anti-poverty efforts overseas, including education, social empowerment for children, economic development, job skills or general assistance to the poor.

A general link between religious groups and conservative values becomes apparent elsewhere, as conservatives are more likely than liberals to personally prioritize the causes of child evangelism (44% vs. 32%) and church-building (45% vs. 29%). This also surfaces in their reported donations: Conservatives say they give to missions organizations (47% vs. 25%) and churches (60% vs. 31%) more often than liberals.

An Opportunity for Unity

This particular survey can’t fully parse the many ways in which religion and politics intermingle in the U.S. But it does show that being a practicing Christian at least increases the likelihood of feeling that the Church bears responsibility for global poverty (14% of conservative practicing Christians, 6% of moderate and liberal practicing Christians), looking for biblical perspectives on how the American Church should be involved in social justice (53% of conservative practicing Christians, 38% of moderate and liberal practicing Christians) and seeing pastors as credible sources on the topic (53% of conservative practicing Christians, 56% of moderate and liberal practicing Christians say “definitely”). In particular, moderates and liberals— those outside the Church and especially those within the Church—are looking for the Church to do more in the fight against global poverty.

From this data emerges a challenge and an opportunity for today’s pastors, particularly those in evangelical and conservative circles: to not abdicate this authority solely to non-governmental and non-profit organizations. Rather, faith leaders might ask themselves: In my sermons, campaigns, charity partnerships and personal life, how can I be an attentive and creative advocate of poverty reduction? Many conservative parishioners are ready to lend their ear and trust their dollars to their church on this issue— in fact, they likely see it as the best “funnel” for their donations and compassion.

Additionally, when ministers take the lead in helping the poor, it could provide a rare connection point for liberals who otherwise feel conflicted about or dismissive of the role of the Church. Disaffected or isolated Christian liberals and moderates—perhaps even some in the “spiritual but not religious” category—may welcome a reminder that there is a place not only for them, but also for their passion for social justice in the local church.

When political demarcations mar communities, families, workplaces, media—and, yes, churches—faith leaders have a profound duty to communicate the truth about poverty. Conservatives and liberals, even Christian ones, may fundamentally disagree on many policies and opinions. But caring for the poor is central to Jesus’ teaching, and pastors who take this to heart help bridge two devastating divides in U.S. culture: one between the majority of Christian conservatives and a call for embodied care of the poor, and another between the majority of liberals and active membership in a community that encourages their generosity. When church leaders reach out to the poor, they offer a message that reaches across American ideologies and affiliations as well.

Q&A with Michele Wymer

Partner with Kyle House Group

Michele advises non-profit and corporate clients regarding international policy affairs and global development projects. As a partner with the DC-based Kyle House Group, Michele provides strategic guidance for clients seeking government relations counsel, commercial advocacy, partnership development and policy analysis that improves the lives of people around the world. Previously, Michele served as a senior staff member on the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the U .S . Senate Appropriations Committee, traveling extensively to conduct oversight of U .S . foreign assistance programs in more than 60 countries. In this capacity, Michele was charged with authoring the annual legislation that determined operational and programming funding levels for U .S . foreign assistance programs.

Q&A with Dr. Dan Brewster

Why Early Intervention Matters

Dan advises the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries in their child development programs. For 30 years, Dan worked with Compassion International and recently retired from the role of director for their international Holistic Child Development (HCD) ministries. He is credited with coining the term “4–14 Window,” to refer to the importance of reaching children during the spiritually formative time between ages 4 and 14. He has traveled to over 100 countries and been involved in planning and monitoring child and family development for relief projects in more than 50 countries. Dan and his wife, Alice, have lived in Penang, Malaysia for the past 19 years. He has a doctorate in missiology from Fuller Seminary and has written and taught widely, promoting and managing Christian HCD ministries and programs.

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