How the Church Can Help Alleviate Poverty

How the Church Can Help Alleviate Poverty  Hero Image How the Church Can Help Alleviate Poverty  Hero Image

It’s clear that God cares about people in need—and cares about how we care for such people (Proverbs 31:9; Luke 6:20; 1 John 3:17).

As a church, we can have a big impact by seeking the welfare of our city (Jeremiah 29:7). We already are making a difference, but there is the opportunity to do even more with your help.

A Different Way to Help

Different people have different needs, and different needs require different approaches.

Sometimes people are in crisis. They might be homeless, have no food, or have lost everything in a natural disaster. Rescue and relief efforts, like the OurCalling homeless ministry or Watermark’s Disaster Relief Fund, are focused on helping those people during that crisis and providing them with basic needs.

After a crisis, there is often the need for recovery or rehabilitation. For example, after a natural disaster, some people focus on repairing the damage and rebuilding homes. These rehabilitation efforts are designed to get people back to where they were before the crisis happened.

But there are many more people who are not currently in crisis and do not need rehabilitation, but who still have significant needs. For example, while there are an estimated 10,000 homeless people in Dallas County, more than 375,000 people live below the poverty line. They struggle daily to just get by. They’re not looking for a handout, but rather an opportunity to permanently lift themselves out of poverty. Instead of relief or rehab, this kind of help is known as development. Though there are far more people in need of development, there are very few organizations doing development work; most are focused on relief or rehabilitation.

Watermark Community Development Corporation seeks to meet those needs.

What Is Watermark CDC?

Watermark Community Development Corporation, or Watermark CDC, is a ministry that empowers people to improve their lives economically. It provides financial education, matched savings, business coaching, job placement, and access to resources that are otherwise scarce in under-resourced communities in Dallas.

Carson Smith, executive director of Watermark CDC, explains that their mission is guided by three Ds:

  • Dignity – Everyone is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We all have gifts (1 Peter 4:10) and skills that God has created for us to use (Ephesians 2:10).
  • Development – Everything Watermark CDC does is based on developing long-term relationships with people. It is not a handout, but a hand up, as people are empowered to change the trajectory of their lives. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
  • Discipleship – Watermark CDC seeks to build relationships through discipleship. Everything is rooted in Scripture. Participants are taught how God’s Word applies to everyday life in areas like work, finances, and stewardship.

What Watermark CDC Does

Although Watermark CDC is only three years old, it has already established several volunteer-led initiatives and is planning to add more:

  • Financial Catalyst starts with a 10-week Faith and Finances class, which is a financial education course designed specifically for those in low-income households. Once participants complete the course, they may qualify to take part in a 15-month Accelerated Savings Program. The Accelerated Savings Program helps people build up enough savings to purchase an asset that will help them long-term: either a house, car, education, or business asset. Every dollar that participants save during those 15 months is matched two-to-one; for example, if they save the maximum of $250 per month, they will receive an additional $500 per month that can only be used to help buy that asset.
  • The Job Connection Program has three components. One is job placement, where people who are unemployed or underemployed are placed into jobs. Once someone is in a new job, that individual is paired one-to-one with an advocate, which is a volunteer who will mentor them for the first six months they are working in that job. The third component is a class where participants learn career competencies such as communication skills, conflict resolution, and resume writing.
  • The Business Cohort is a 10-week class for small business owners to help them learn entrepreneurship skills and take their businesses to the next level. It ends with a pitch night, where they can present their business to the community and to investors while competing for cash prizes. After graduating, The Business Cohort members receive ongoing support in building their businesses and contributing to the economic development of their neighborhoods.
  • The newest initiative is Vocational Training, teaching computer literacy and GED classes.

Make an Impact

Although Watermark CDC is still fairly new and some of the initiatives are just getting off the ground, it is already making a big impact. More than 100 people have been placed in jobs; 450 people have learned how to manage their finances through Financial Catalyst; and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been saved and put towards purchasing assets.

But it is really just getting started, and you have an opportunity to help build the ministry and make a lasting difference in combating poverty within our city.

Because Watermark CDC emphasizes discipleship and one-to-one relationships, it cannot do what it does without volunteers. There are currently 175 volunteers who serve in a variety of ways, from mentoring to hospitality to writing notes. You do not need to have business experience or financial expertise to serve (although, if you do, there are certainly opportunities to use those gifts!). You just need to be willing to love your neighbor and be a friend to someone who maybe has different life experiences than you.

This is your opportunity to love our city through sustainable, innovative economic solutions making a real difference in our neighbors’ lives. “There is nothing else like it happening in our city,” Carson explains. “We are truly moving the needle.”

You can learn more about being a part of Watermark CDC here, or check out other ways you can love our city through serving and investing in transforming economic welfare.