I am a new church starter and my church is located in a rural northeastern city of North Carolina. It is an economically challenged community with major opportunities for growth and development. I am a firm believer that as Christians, we are to be Christ-like and help those who are in need. We should minister with the mindset that Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” (NIV). When helping those in need, as Christians, we should to be intentional about building relationships first. Most people are starving for relationships because when people believe you care about them and respect them, they are much more likely to be receptive and trust you to become part of their lives.
Therefore, I have developed the following practical ways a church can help those in need:
1) Start in your church community. Poverty can be related to the lack of material things, but there are also spiritual, relational, psychological, and emotional issues. Remember that oftentimes some of the causes of poverty include unemployment, no experience, inadequate skillsets or education, criminal records, abuse, addiction, mental illness, divorce, or a single-parent home just to name a few.
2) Admit your own poverty. We are all an “EX-Something.” We must come to the realization that we are all poor and broken in one way or another. We can truly begin to help others when we admit our own poverty which can be financial, spiritual or both. The more willing we are to come to grips with this truth, the better suited we are to help those in need.
3) Show compassion to those in need. Do not treat people in need as a project or as a problem to be fixed. Understand that we need to dig deeper than the surface level because poverty can cripple ones hopes, dreams and future. Treat them with compassion and be willing to encourage, teach and provide care when needed.
4) Partner with other community groups. Have the volunteers from your church work with other community volunteers to help those in need. For example, work with Habitat for Humanity, https://www.habitat.org/ to assist with home repairs of those in need. Work with the Fuller Center for Housing, https://fullercenter.org/ to assist those desiring to purchase their own home. For Veterans, Home Depot, http://www.homedepot.com/ has become a major sponsor and will donate heavily toward projects of this nature.
5) Partner with schools in the community to help at-risk students. Adopt a school in your community and talk with school administrators as to how you can help the students. For example, sponsor a school carnival or pay for a school trip. Also, partner with the local movie theater to ask if they are willing to have a special movie event for the school on a weekday during school hours at no cost or at a discounted price. Bag lunches can be provided along with snacks to the students. Engage with kids as mentors.
6) Partner with area restaurants. Many restaurants will allow churches or other organizations to take their leftovers and distribute them to those in need.
7) Be creative and find ways to include the people you want to reach in the community. For example, consider hiring teenagers to mow grass or shovel snow for the seniors and widows in your church and community. Create a job bulletin board and post job announcements to include child care and before and after school services. Invite children in the community to VBS and consider asking their parents to participate in VBS by teaching, driving vans to pick-up the children or working in the kitchen to help with the refreshments. This is a win-win situation because this came foster new relationships. Remember if parents make connections with other adults, they are more likely to support the connections their children are making.
8)Create a community garden. If you have land at your church that is not being utilized or a vacant lot nearby, this is a perfect opportunity create a community garden. You can go into neighborhoods that are in dire need of help and invite them to participate. This is definitely a win-win situation because they can learn how to start their own garden and care for it, harvest the food, eat healthy and also be fed spiritually. You can also have everyone provide their favorite recipes and make a cookbook as a fundraising project for your church.
9) Go to a laundromat in your town. Introduce yourself to a family that looks like they may need a helping hand and give them a few rolls of quarters to pay for their washing and drying costs. Take advantage of the opportunity to evangelize. Ensure that you take some tracts and freebies with your church logo and church information on it to give to individuals in the laundromat.
10) Partner with community hospitals and clinics. Contact hospital administrators, your primary care physicians and dentists and ask if they are willing to provide FREE screening or service at a discount rate for individuals without insurance. For example, hospitals will sometimes provide FREE mammograms and prostate testing, and nutritional guidance. Inquire about the possibility of medical doctors providing pharmaceutical donations received from wholesale providers to individuals without medical insurance. Oftentimes, the Veterans Hospitals will send mobile vans to areas with a high concentration of Veterans for various types of screening. This is an excellent way to engage others to help those in need in the community. The concept is that most communities already have all the resources to improve the community; it is the lack of education and a cooperative plan that hinders the movement to help those in need.
Remember that as Christians, we are to be Christ-Like and help those in need!
Pastor Carrie Jarrell Tuning, HOPE Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina