United Way calls Chattanooga churches to act on poverty

If You Go

› What: Faith, Work & the Church is a weekend workshop on local poverty alleviation.› When: The workshop begins Friday and ends Saturday afternoon.› Where: The first event of the workshop on Friday, titled “Economic Engagement in At-Risk Communities: Models and Tools,” will be held at Hope for the Inner City, located at 1800 Roanoke Ave. The event on Saturday, titled “Equipping Churches to Rethink Poverty and Take the Next Steps in Engaging Low-Income Members and Neighbors” will be held at New City Fellowship, located at 2424 E. Third St.› Cost: Registration for both days is $59; registration for either Friday or Saturday is $39. Senior citizen registration is $19 (for both days) and student registration is $39 (for both days). If you would like to make a donation to fund attendance scholarships, call the United Way at 423-752-0305.› For a complete schedule of sessions or to register for the event, visit www.faithworkandchurch.com.

Local churches will gather this weekend to discuss how members of Chattanooga's faith community can work together to address the economic desperation some residents in the city are facing.

The workshop, "Faith, Work & the Church," is an effort to bring church and community leaders together over the issue of poverty, a challenge that has long divided cities and congregations.

Organizers said the event was spurred by an eight-part series of stories published this spring in the Times Free Press "that challenged the church and community at large to respond."

"The Poverty Puzzle" explored the growing threat of poverty and how social isolation and limits to economic mobility were impeding opportunities for local children. One study, cited by the series, showed that a lifetime in Hamilton County hurts poor and middle-class children, in terms of finding a spouse and earning a livable wage, more than it helps. The same study published by Harvard University, which used anonymous tax records to map economic mobility across the U.S., showed that almost the entire country - 91 percent of counties - did a better job of creating paths to high earnings for children born at the bottom than Hamilton County.

"This two-day gathering grew, in part, out of conversations between United Way and the Chalmers Center started by this series, and at the request of many area churches for information and training on poverty alleviation," Kelley Nave, a United Way spokeswoman, said in a statement. "At the same time, Hope for the Inner City was planning a regional training, and it became clear that both events would be stronger by bringing them together in the same weekend."

The workshop will offer opportunities for pastors, deacons, ministry leaders, laymen and business people to learn and engage each other for long-term partnerships, organizers said. Community development experts and thinkers from across the city and region will be on hand to share data and tested approaches to those in attendance thinking about how they want to move forward.

Some of the highlights of the weekend will be addresses by Dr. Brian Fikkert, a professor of economics at Covenant College and co-author of "When Helping Hurts," and Dr. John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association.

Contact staff writer Joan McClane at jmcclane @timesfreepress.com or 423-316-6627.