In September 2006, I was asked to lead a Bible study on children and poverty for the all-staff gathering of National Ministries (American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.) The purpose of the study was to help staff explore the biblical mandates related to the Children in Poverty Initiative, which was adopted in 2005 as denomination-wide issue of concern.
In light of workload and timeframe, it was suggested that I might find an existing resource to work with, rather than developing my own study. I found a great deal of material on poverty, but few substantial resources specifically dedicated to the topic of children and poverty.
It is my suspicion that this lack of material reflects the first marginalization experienced by children in poverty. Not only in the broader culture, but also–or especially–in the church, children are not granted the same standing as adults, simply because they are children.
Children who live in poverty are twice marginalized: first because they are children and second because they are poor. With a disproportionate number of children of color living in poverty, many are three times marginalized; disenfranchised by age, by economic status, and by race or ethnicity.
I began the task of developing a study on children and poverty by following a hermeneutical process drawn from liberation theology. In this approach, Scripture is scanned for texts on a given subject and selected for presentation based on two criteria: popular misappropriation and neglect.
Misappropriated texts are revisited and reinterpreted, while overlooked–and often surprising–texts are raised up for consideration. This interpretive lens, which I refer to as a “hermeneutic of repentance” is one element of an education approach that I developed during my doctoral studies. This educational process itself is designed to allow for presenting a potentially controversial topic in a way that maximizes the possibility of transformation around that topic.
Knowing that my study participants would be diverse in their views on the topic of children in poverty, the use of a transformational educational model made sense. I was, however, privileged by presenting in the friendly, supportive context of colleagues, who made the study experience an overall success.
In the end, it was decided that the study be prepared for publication and distribution to a wider audience. The resulting resource, Children, Poverty, and the Bible, a five-part study for weekly meetings, multi-day events or all-day retreats, is available free of charge from National Ministries by calling Judson Press at 1-800-458-3766 or visit www.jusdonpress.org and asking for item number NM 4829.
Cassandra Carkuff Williams is a home missionary serving as national coordinator for discipleship resource development with National Ministries of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.