Traditionally, churches work alone in their benevolence ministry: collecting donations and then distributing help to those in need. A much better and more biblically based form of benevolence is for a church to partner with local nonprofits who are already doing this type of work with excellence. Here are guidelines for accomplishing more:
- The church can approach these local organizations and offer supplies (e.g., food and clothing), money (for benevolence and even for operations), and volunteers. Every nonprofit you approach will jump at the chance to get more of these resources.
- The church and the organization can reach an understanding regarding overt or covert evangelism. It’s important to know what standards are expected in working with that partner.
- Working with a community partner allows recipients to go to places in an area of town they are more comfortable with than having to walk into a church (which is often intimidating to non-church folk). This makes church members get out of their comfort zones and into an area where, even if they aren’t comfortable, the hurting and needy are located. Remember, Jesus went out to the highways and byways and didn’t wait for people to come to him.
- Not having to work solo allows a church to partner with an organization that is far more skilled at distributing resources and determining who are the scammers and who are truly the needy. The partner organization most likely has a database that keeps track of who has been helped, for what purpose, and how often.
- A partnership allows the church administrative assistants (the first point of contact for many recipients) to focus on their work instead of answering the phones. And frankly, some of the needy can be scary (though that does not mean they’re dangerous) and that can affect the work productivity of the church’s administrative assistant(s).
- If more and more churches would partner with local organizations already doing benevolence well, the chronically needy would know where to turn for regular help (instead of going from church to church) and those organizations might be able to offer additional services such as job placement and training to address long-term needs and not just immediate needs.
Moving your benevolence offsite gives less “glory” to your church, and your members might complain about that. However, this is not about meeting the church’s needs but about helping others. God gets the glory—period. It’s not about us; it’s about us being servants to help others.
Steve Law is principal of Financial Leadership for Churches and Non-profits, holds M.B.A and M.Div. degrees, and is a certified church administrator. He regularly blogs at FinanceforChurches.org.
Learn more about benevolence funds in Benevolence Fund Basics and the Church Finance Today SkillBuilders article, “6 Benevolence Fund Best Practices.” Church Law & Tax Editorial Advisor Frank Sommerville also writes about churches accomplishing more with community partners in “Better Together” on LeadershipJournal.net.
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