Thoughts on Benevolence Ministry

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If you have worked in a church for any length of time, you are keenly aware of people coming to the church for help. Churches are made up of people, and people are often in need of real help.

At my church we regularly have folks from inside our church and outside our church asking for help. This is where our benevolence fund comes in. We have a fund that many in our church regularly give to that we use to help people in need.  Most churches have something like this, although it may be called by a different name.

And like most churches, we have a form that folks fill out. We have a committee where we discuss the request and how to handle it. We have a city-wide database that we use to coordinate with other churches in the area so as folks aren’t abusing the system. And we have specific guidelines that we follow in giving out benevolence, such as we only pay the biller, we never cut checks to individuals, we don’t pay on credit card debt, etc.

But lately I have been wondering what responsibility do we have to go even further? It’s great to help folks in very practical ways such as paying their bills and giving them food, etc. But what else should we be doing other than giving financial help?

Here are a few points I have been thinking about:

  • Listen First – sometimes it is easy to make it purely administrative. Get the form, send it to committee, cut check, look at next request. However, people in need have a deep-set desire to be heard and understood as well as helped practically. Let’s hear where people are coming from, their heart, and then help them financially if we can.
  • Help Growth Long Term – paying someone’s utility bill to keep their lights on is really helpful. But if they don’t learn to think differently they can and often do find themselves in the exact same situation a month or two later. So how are we helping folks learn how to plan, save, budget? Perhaps partnering with financial advisor to help folks is just one great way to help folks in the long term as well as short term.
  • Address Spiritual Well-Being – It’s good to help people in need, but if we miss on telling them WHY then we are missing a huge opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus. It’s a perfect open door to share who God is and how much He loves them. We can help people because Jesus saved us. This is God’s way of saying to folks, “I see you. I want to provide for you.” God doesn’t just care for our physical well-being, he cares for our souls. Let’s not miss an opportunity to make sure folks hear about Jesus.
  • Diversify Committee – most churches have a benevolence committee where the decisions are made. Something helpful to do is to make it diverse – consisting of people of different races and backgrounds speaking into these decisions. This simply helps us see a case from different points of view, which is key in making hard decisions.

Benevolence is a great ministry but a difficult ministry. No matter what, go into it prayerfully, asking for God’s wisdom, discernment, and love.

What are some practices that have been beneficial to you in this ministry?  I would love to hear.

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Gabe Lawson serves as the Pastor of Discipleship and Care at First Alliance Church in Lexington, KY. He also serves as a chaplain in the US Air Force Reserves, an ordained minister in the Christian & Missionary Alliance, and a wedding photographer with his wife, Mary. You can follow him on Twitter @gabriellawson and Instagram @gabelawson

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