John Kirkby pioneered Christians Against Poverty (CAP) in the 1990’s in order to help the many affected by debt who found themselves facing eviction and unable to cope. Setting up budgeting systems and negotiating with creditors, John was able to offer vital help to those in need.

Four CAP debt centres offering the service opened in 1998. CAP now also tackles the causes of debt and poverty through their CAP Debt Help and CAP Job Clubs. A new service CAP Life Skills, helping people to live well on a low income has also just been launched. We asked John how he was inspired to set up CAP and his thoughts on giving.

Why did you set up CAP?
I had my own experience of being transformed by the power of God through the Church, and how that spun out into my life and took my loneliness and my struggling to cope and managed to get my finances under control. Then I recovered spiritually and emotionally enough to become married to Lizzie. I used my experience of 12 years in the finance industry, supercharged by God.

When you established the organisation, how did you encourage Christians to grasp hold of the concept of giving?
Within a month of CAP being established – started with a £10 donation in my bedroom office – two things became obvious. I was born to do debt counselling but I would have to spend significant time inspiring, encouraging, and challenging individuals to give generously and with enthusiasm to see the poor reached and the gospel spread. 


I resolved that even though it would stop me seeing as many people in the short term, I would have to spend two days a week on this second task. It was a vital ingredient and I had to do it at the cost of seeing more clients. At that time I hoped to be able to help thousands of clients, little was I to know that it would result in hundreds of thousands being saved from poverty.

I think people grasp the concept when they give. I focused on the act not the concept. In my past experience, I had been an influencer and persuader and I came into my own when captivated by people coming to Christ.

The fruit of that giving was in the lives of people they would never meet but there was fruit for the giver. Proverbs 11, 24 – 31 says the world of the generous gets larger and larger and Lizzie and I have seen that. We are living that life and that’s the best position to be in if you’re asking others to give. You have to live it and then you can transmit that. We now have 29,000 regular givers. 

Do you feel attitudes to giving and generosity have changed over the years?
Yes and no! The world has understandably suffered compassion fatigue and charity as a brand has taken some significant knocks, some deserved. The vast majority of our funding is from Christians so the stability of the word and His Spirit has shown an enlargement in giving. As a recipient of generosity you have a responsibility to those people to thank, to report back, inspire and show the fruit of what you’re able to do. Lizzie and I support various charities but there are situations when, after two years of giving with no feedback, that connection wanes. Charities owe their givers communication – it’s part of their responsibility to deliver.

What do you think is the key to keeping the momentum to give in all aspects of life?
Complacency is the killer of so much. It’s so easy to sit back and say yeah, I give enough for all the right reasons. As a couple, we’ve decided to increase our giving by 1 per cent every year. That ensures our complacency is kept in check. Yes it does hurt when you can’t do something because of your giving but that’s how you keep giving it an edge, keep striving on for all it achieves.