Skills training can make a real difference in people’s lives. Examples include job counseling for returning military vets, tutoring for school children in economically challenged communities, mentoring for gang members, but also financial counseling, English as a Second Language (ESL), and substance abuse rehabilitation.
Such personal development ministries take time, but may have a more lasting impact than programs that address physical needs. Heidi Unruh and Ron Sider, in their study of faith-based outreach in Philadelphia, observe, “These ministries have an undercurrent of empowerment that transcends the immediate provision of tangible aid such as food and clothing.” Food programs aim at hunger, while empowerment programs aim at something more intangible—strengthening the individual’s heart, mind, and soul.
Pastor Donna Jones describes the importance of faith for participants in Transitional Journey, a program sponsored by Cookman United Methodist Church that provides life skills training, GED instruction, computer classes, job placement, and follow-up services to about thirty women on public assistance. Pastor Donna Jones says, “When you’re talking about people restoration, without the hope that comes from faith, I don’t see that it’s possible.”
 Unruh and Sider, Saving Souls, 31.
 Unruh and Sider, Saving Souls, 202.
Photo: UN Photo, 1.18.14. Flikr Creative Commons.