Relief, Development, and Crisis 



It is essential to understand the difference between relief and development. Relief is “the urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering from a natural or man-made crisis”, according to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in their book When Helping Hurts.  It is employed to “stop the bleeding” and to halt the freefall of plummeting economic conditions.

On the other hand, development is “a process taking place over time that helps people identify, develop, and use their God-given assets and talents.”  As Corbett and Fikkert describe it, development is “the process of ongoing change that moves all people involved (both the “helpers” and the “helped”) closer to being in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.”

Here’s a simpler way to think about it:

  • Relief is when we do things for people.
  • Development is when we do things with people.

I know firsthand – perhaps better than most – what relief looks like. I spent a significant amount of time in Croatia and Bosnia from 1995 to 1998, assisting in relief work (and, ultimately, development work) for the people caught in that man-made civil war.  My mentor, Franklin Graham, often referred to it as “reaching into the ditches and gutters of life,” and, trust me, we reached into a lot of places no one else wanted to go.  When you’ve hugged people, and loved on people, and been in the gutters with them, they hug and love and respond back.  They don’t care what denomination you are. They just want to know, Do you love me enough to help me?  And when you reach out in God’s love and help meet their immediate needs, they usually listen to “the why,” as Franklin called it.  Why do we help? Because God loves us, and He loves them, and He cares for them more than they can possibly imagine.

In a crisis, it is appropriate – and natural – to rush into a situation and do things for people. Crises are exceptional moments like pandemics and tornadoes. For most moments, we need to be focused on development efforts, walking alongside people to help them discover ways to put their God-given talents to use.

As we give resources, it is important to distinguish which – response, relief, or development – is the appropriate intervention. There are times, like during our current crisis, where immediate relief is the appropriate response. The Good Samaritan, in Luke chapter 10, serves as an example of effective relief. He provided effective relief to a victim who was in dire need of material assistance. There are two principles to remember when it comes to relief.

Relief must be immediate. When a large-scale crisis hits, a timely response is crucial. Victims cannot wait months for material assistance. The body of Christ functions as the human body. When you injure one part of your body, the rest of your body shifts resources to support and restore it. During a pandemic, the body of Christ will need to shift resources to make sure people impacted physically and economically are supported and restored.

The Generosity Trust launched a disaster relief fund to provide immediate and essential assistance to victims of the mid-April tornadoes. The goal of this fund is to find those churches and Christian ministries responding to those needs and make grants in Jesus’ name to meet the needs of those impacted.

Relief must be temporary. While relief is necessary, it is reserved for situations of great need and crisis. Once the immediate needs are met, it is critical to quickly move to stages of rehabilitation and development, where we work with people to help return the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions.

As we face crises in our city, it is important to provide relief and stop the freefall whenever possible. Relief will move our city as quickly as possible to stages of rehabilitation and development. To provide necessary relief to Chattanoogans, The Generosity Trust is employing two relief funds:

Please give to either – or both – as you are able.  Lives are at stake, and TGT is uniquely positioned to come alongside those working as the hands and feet of Christ in these most extraordinary days.


For the Kingdom,

Jim Barber




345 Frazier Ave., Unit 205
Chattanooga, TN 37405



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