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Rethinking Poverty 

The Chalmers Center Ambassador Program has already trained dozens in its poverty alleviating principles.

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The Chalmers Center, known for the book “When Helping Hurts,” wants to help more Christians “rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing.”

Photo courtesy of The Chalmers Center

In an effort to extend its reach and build a movement, the Chalmers Center has instituted an Ambassador program.

The 10-week training program was started less than two years ago and so far has trained 65 ambassadors to “equip churches and ministries to think differently about poverty.”

According to Justin Lonas, director of the foundational products at the Chalmers Center, the center often receives more requests for assistance than its small headquarters team can provide.

However, by training ambassadors, more people who understand the Chalmers-model of poverty alleviation and ministry will be available to assist in local contexts around the country, serving the needs of churches and ministries and helping equip them.

“Chalmers has a bunch of different programs. The Ambassador program is not a different program. In some sense it’s a way to help channel people’s needs into other trainings as a way to help introduce the framework and get people thinking differently and go deeper,” Lonas pointed out.

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Once certified, ambassadors may conduct in-person trainings and consultations that provide several advantages, such as allowing the ambassadors to interact with churches and ministries and discuss their plans, ask questions specific to the ministry, and help it identify the next steps to take, Lonas said.

He pointed out that Chalmers tries to match a church or ministry seeking help with an ambassador that is both nearby and has similar ministry experience.

On Tuesday, March 19, the Chalmers Center held a webinar to “publicly launch” its ambassador program. It featured stories of two trained ambassadors, who have already put their certification to use by holding in-person trainings for a church and ministry.

Kevin Peyton is a trained ambassador who lives in southwest Ohio. He is a pastor and the executive director of Joshua’s Place, a ministry that serves families experiencing poverty.

Recently, Peyton held an in-person training for the deacon team of Resurrection Life Church in Grandville, Michigan at the request of Jim Faber, the church’s deacon chairman.

Both Peyton and Faber found the in-person training very beneficial, pointing to Peyton’s availability to engage in discussion, answer questions regarding particular situations, and apply the principles he teaches to the group of about 60 deacons.

Faber applauded Peyton’s depth of knowledge that he used to move from conceptual ideas to practical implementation.

Peyton considered his role life-giving. He has been shaped by the Chalmers Center in the work he does at Joshua’s Place and now enjoys engaging with others as they embrace the same perspective.

Where Peyton provided training to a group of deacons from one church, ambassador Lisa Sheltra provided her first in-person training in a more unique context.

Send Me St. Louis is a ministry to ministries, providing trainings and resources to help them be more effective.

Send Me St. Louis Executive Director Matt Miller engaged Sheltra to provide training for the many ministries and churches it supports so they could understand the Chalmers Center poverty philosophy more deeply.

Sheltra is an ambassador in Champaign, Illinois. She is also the director of community engagement at Salt & Light, a faith-based poverty alleviation organization.

Leading the seminar for Send Me allowed Sheltra to connect with a variety of people and ministries who work in different contexts, encouraging her to stretch her own thinking as she sought to help them apply the principles in those situations.

“It was exciting to see these ideas resonating with people and energizing people who are wanting to work toward it,” Sheltra said.

Miller said the seminar was a great step in helping the ministry and church partners to think about revamping existing programs to be more effective and sustainable or rethinking benevolence programs based on what they learned.

Ministries who are interested in working with a Chalmers Center Ambassador can submit a request through the Chalmers Center website.

The cost begins at $150/hour with a 2 hour minimum. Ministries are also responsible for travel and lodging expenses if an Ambassador comes in person.

Ambassador training is offered twice a year and requires an application and interview. It costs $950 with between 35 and 40 hours to complete, including live sessions. The next training will be in the fall.

In the MinistryWatch database, the Chalmers Center receives a 2-star financial efficiency rating, an “A” transparency grade, and a donor confidence score of 90, meaning donors can give with confidence.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years.