Open Table: A Practical Way to Eradicate Poverty

by Jon Katov

The Triumph of Relationship over Poverty.

What is the Open Table? It’s a great program to equip Christians to restore people in poverty to our communities through relationship and by investing our own vocational and life experiences and personal networks.


Train congregations and their members, through the Open Table Model, to partner their vocational and life experiences with people in poverty to develop and implement plans that create sustainability and wholeness.


The Open Table process is the catalyst for the deployment of a Missional Community committed to the transformation of a family or individual in poverty. However, the servants themselves are often the most transformed. When the Open Table process is complete, these Missional Communities, having brought each other through the wilderness of poverty, where they collided with society’s false beliefs about the poor, become a new community in which the family or individual they helped is now unrecognizable from those who did the helping. In many instances, individuals helped in Open Table return as servants helping the next family.


The Open Table model provides faith communities with a proven process to transform individuals and families in poverty. With the model and training, congregation members invest their life and vocational experiences, networks and ability to navigate the community in a person or family in poverty. These strengths combine with those from partners in government, business, psychology, social work and other disciplines. This shared purpose collaboration builds encouraging and accountable partnerships with people in poverty that create transformation.

Open Table began its innovative program in 2005 when it developed a faith-based, volunteer-led process to restore one Phoenix homeless man to wholeness. The process was a success, and interest in the “Table” model grew until Open Table became a 501(c)(3) organization in 2007. Open Table is a proven, effective, poverty transformation model that provides a restorative path to wholeness and sustainability.


With the faith community leadership, the Open Table movement invites community organizations to develop resource-based partnerships around the shared purpose of helping people in poverty restore themselves to sustainability and wholeness in the community.

Following are some examples of Open Table collaborations that create resources:

•  Government: Connections to government resources, including case management, housing, workforce development, vocational training, community navigation and other resources

•  Transitional Organizations: Candidate referrals, training and ongoing table support

•  Behavioral Health: Table member training, candidate assessment model and ongoing behavioral ?support

•  Professionals: Legal, accounting, behavioral health, dentistry, healthcare

•  Local Business: Car repair, employment, child care


In Maryland, Open Table is collaborating with faith communities and Rural CARES, a regional System of Care Collaborative funded by a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), on the Eastern Shore to implement an Open Table demonstration project for caregivers of youth with serious mental health needs who are in, or at risk of entering, the child welfare system. Through Coordination, Advocacy, Resources, Education, and Support, Rural CARES promotes wellness among youth and families who experience emotional, social, and behavioral challenges. Project management for Rural CARES is, provided by The Institute for Innovation and Implementation, University of Maryland, School of Social Work. Another SAMHSA-funded grant, Maryland CARES, provides the opportunity to test similar innovation in Baltimore City.


In Open Table, people in poverty who have the will to improve their lives are empowered through the intensive Table model that can help lift one family at a time to sustainability.

“I feel like I can do anything now, because Open Table made me work for everything I gained.”

Open Table Sister: C.A.R.E. 2009 Research with Arizona State University

The people Open Table helps are called Brothers and Sisters, following Martin Luther King’s vision that “we are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother.”

Using the Open Table model and support from the Open Table organization, congregations recruit volunteers who are trained to launch “Tables.” A Table is the platform through which our Brothers and Sisters in poverty and congregation members become partners in developing a plan to achieve sustainability and wholeness. Candidates for Tables pass through a psychological assessment and backgrounding process.

Each Table is composed of a group of volunteers that make a year commitment to act as a team of life specialists, encouragers, and advocates for impoverished Brothers, Sisters and families. The Table members, together with the individual or family being helped establish goals, accountability, develop an overall plan and implement it. Table members network in their congregations and the community for resources to support the plan.

“Table members reported that the experience of volunteering for Open Table changed their perception of poverty…” C.A.R.E. 2009 Research with Arizona State University

Each Table is hosted by a congregation or two or more congregations partnered to launch a Table. A required team of volunteers (10-12 people help an adult or family – 6-7 help a young adult aging out of foster care) over an 8 – 12 month period. Tables generally meet once a week for six months and then at a lesser intensity as the work progresses. Table members are generalists, work as teams and also provide leadership for a certain aspect of the plan such as occupation, education, spirituality, health, transportation and other categories.

We can make a difference in the lives of the poor! Let’s take the opportunity to use our resources to effectively change lives!

For more information about this amazing program, contact



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