A poor man sitting on the floor.

For the month of December here at CityServe, we’re spotlighting The Poor: A CityServe Compassion Initiative.

The Poor Compassion Initiative is how CityServe inspires, resources, and mobilizes churches to serve those living in poverty. But to serve them with much more than free food and clothing. God’s Church serves the poor with the compassion and love of Jesus.

Poverty turns out to be pretty complex. It’s surprising how many misconceptions there are about poverty – and how churches can help lift people out of it!

Given the love Jesus has for The Poor, we felt led to dispel 7 common myths about The Poor. You may notice these in your local community.

A poor child sitting on the floor.

Myth #1: A bachelor’s degree will keep you out of poverty. It’s true Americans lacking a high school diploma are nearly six times more likely to fall below the poverty line. But about 1 in 20 in poverty is a college graduate. In Chicago, it’s even higher: 1 in 6 residents below the poverty have a bachelor’s degree. Sources: FederalSafetyNet.com, IllinoisPolicy.org

A student graduating.

Myth #2: Poverty is gradually getting better. In good times and bad, about 10% of all Americans are stuck in poverty. In 2022, as benefits linked to the pandemic expired, the poverty rate jumped 4.6% to 12.4% of the population. Based on the 2023 federal poverty guidelines, that’s an income of just $19,720 annually for a two-person household. Sources: ABCNews.com, Census.gov “Poverty in the United States: 2022.”

Serving food to kids.

Myth #3: Thanks to food stamps and school programs, poverty among kids is rare. Tragically, 11.6 million U.S. children are living in poverty. That’s 16% of all children in the United States. Source: US Census Bureau, the Anne E. Casey Foundation.

A poor girl eating a cracker.

Myth #4: Poverty actually stems from alcohol and drug abuse. Studies show those on lower incomes are only slightly more likely to experience substance abuse. Officials in many U.S. cities report a clear link between homelessness and substance abuse, however. While addiction can certainly lead to homelessness, officials say the stress of living on the street can also push people into alcohol and drugs… so it works both ways. Sources: StJosephInstitute.com; AmericanAddictionCenters.org.

A man worried about needing a job.

Myth #5: To escape poverty, people just need a job. Actually, about 6.3 million Americans were “working poor” in 2020 – that is, they were working but still fell below the poverty line. Sources: US Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, bls.gov.

Fast food worker.

Myth #6: People with less money are generally happier. That misconception probably stems from back when depression was called a “disease of the affluent.” Today, most researchers agree those living below the poverty line are more likely to struggle with depression. Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science; Samhsa.gov.

A woman worried.

Myth #7: Elders on Social Security are more likely to suffer poverty. Actually, Social Security is credited with pulling more people out of poverty than any other federal program. It’s estimated that without Social Security, 37.7% of adults age 65 and older would fall below the poverty line. With Social Security, that percentage of seniors below the poverty line is 10.3 percent. Sources: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; AEI.org.

Elderly couple counting change.
Sometimes solving systemic poverty seems impossible. But be encouraged believer—for with God we know ALL things are possible!

During the Christmas season as church outreaches are at their highest, it’s important for the body of Christ to have a heart for those in need and see how the local church can serve them all year long.

The Word says…
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,” declared Jesus in Matthew 25:35-40. “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink … as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17

God’s answer to brokenness and poverty in the world is His Church.