The Chalmers Center was founded by Dr. Brian Fikkert in 1999. Brian chose to name the Center after Thomas Chalmers, a 19th-century Scottish pastor who was convinced that the local church needed to take a more active role in ministering to the poor in both word and deed.
Chalmers was originally a research branch of the Department of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College. Brian, along with his colleagues at Covenant, focused on training churches and development workers throughout the Majority World (Africa, Asia, and Latin America) in biblically integrated microfinance strategies.
By 2008, more and more churches in the United States were requesting training in the basic principles of church-centered poverty alleviation. In response, Brian and Steve Corbett, Chalmers’ Community Development Specialist, began writing When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself. The book was published in 2009, and by the grace of God, sold over 300,000 copies by the end of 2014.
Due to the unexpected popularity of When Helping Hurts, Chalmers' staff and work grew rapidly. As a result, Chalmers became a legally separate non-profit from Covenant College in 2010. Though no longer a formal branch of Covenant, Chalmers enjoys a strong relationship with the college. All of the professors of Economics and Community Development work part-time at Chalmers, and Covenant's President and Vice President of Academic Affairs both serve on Chalmers' board of directors.
Chalmers' work is growing in both its scope and scale. In the U.S. and Canada, Chalmers continues to shape the way the church thinks about poverty alleviation through books, seminars, and speaking events. In 2012, Chalmers began training churches in the U.S. and Canada to begin biblically integrated financial education classes with low-income people. In the Majority World, Chalmers has trained church and ministry leaders in over 100 countries, and is currently focused on equipping networks of churches in West Africa to form church-centered savings groups.