Don’t Let Benevolence

Become a Bummer!

by Dave Anderson-Church Account Mgr. YCA

Most people see the church as a place to find help in times of need, which it should be.  We are called to offer help to those that are hurting.

Requests for benevolence have a way of growing exponentially once you start to help even just one or two people.  I remember recruiting a group of guys to help move a single mom to a new apartment. Word got out and we had requests to move people every weekend!

The challenge comes when the requests for help are greater than the resources that you have available. Many churches receive dozens of requests each week, using up lots of time and money.

Craig Groeschel says, “Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.” This is true for benevolence, every time you say yes to meeting a need, those funds and time are gone.  They can’t be used for some other ministry opportunities.

God calls us to be benevolent, but also expects us to be good stewards of the resources that He provides. 

No one likes saying “No” to someone with a need.  It is uncomfortable and can feel unloving, but it is part of being a good steward of benevolence. 

Here are some best practices for benevolence ministry:

Appoint a Benevolence Board

Pick three to five members of your church to head up your benevolence ministry.  They should be wise, Godly people who are comfortable in showing love, even when it is tough love.  You can include a staff pastor, but it is best if it is not the lead pastor. This frees up the lead to focus on other areas of ministry and keeps him/her from being the “NO” person.  The benevolence board is only effective if leadership refers all requests for benevolence to the board and supports their decisions.  Do not undermine their authority by overriding their decisions.

Establish a Budget

Work with your Benevolence Board to determine a budget for this area of ministry.  Set monthly or quarterly limits.  Doing so forces them to carefully consider each request.  It also prevents your benevolence expenses from eating up funds committed to other areas of ministry.

Develop a Benevolence Policy

Work with your benevolence board to develop policies.  What areas are you willing to help with? Medical bills, utilities, food, rent, car repairs, etc.  What are the dollar limits? Do they have to provide bills as proof?  (Payments should only be made directly to the payee, like the utility company.)  How many times per year can someone ask for help?  Do they need to attend your church?

Having policies in place makes the decision process much easier.  This only works if you follow the policies strictly.  You lose credibility if you pick and choose who must meet criteria and who does not.  

There are lots of example policies available online.

Support the Professionals

Churches can’t offer ministries to meet every need. It is impossible to do them all well.

 Why start a food pantry if there is already a well-run faith based one in your community? They have already figured out how to effectively do this ministry.  It is counter productive for you to compete with them for food donations and resources.  Send them monthly support and refer requests for food to them.  The same is true for things like emergency housing, utilities, etc.

When someone requests things such as groceries do this:

Pray with them.

Explain that you support the local food pantry because you are not set up to effectively manage this type of ministry.   Refer them to the pantry for help.

Keep a few bags of grocery dry goods, (canned meats, soup, canned vegetables, etc.) that would meet an emergency need.  Offer these to those who can’t wait over the weekend or after pantry hours.

Be Prepared

Keep a list of community resources available to be referenced when requests for help come into your office.   Explain that your church doesn’t offer the requested kind of ministry, but instead supports organizations that do.  Refer those asking to the groups on the list.

Avoid giving cash. Keep a few fast-food gift cards on hand to offer someone who needs a quick meal.

I used to offer fuel cards to those needing gas.  We had tons of requests for them.  We eventually bought some cans to keep gas on hand and I began offering to put gas directly into the tanks instead.  Some of those who were desperate for gas became angry, demanding the gas cards instead.   Were they even using the cards for gasoline?

Not My Job to Say No

Some might say, “It’s not up to us to police how our benevolence is used.  That is between them and God.”

 I understand the sentiment, but also go back to strongly believing we are called to be good stewards.  We must make sure every dollar is spent wisely, even those given in benevolence.

Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is say “no”.  A loving parent often tells their child no, just as our father God does for us. There are times when people we love need to face the consequences of their decisions.  It doesn’t feel good, but it is real love.

I used to really struggle with this sentiment, but I read a great book called “When helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  They also offer some great resources on RightNow Media.  I suggest you and your benevolence board take advantage of them.

Don’t allow all the requests for benevolence to be something your dread dealing with. Put systems and people in place to make it one of the most impactful ministries in your church.

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