In the last few posts, we’ve seen that an effective mercy ministry not only requires compassion, but it also requires responsibility. Today, we’ll explore some guidelines by which to operate. Just as Paul gave Timothy guidelines by which to operate, we too should have guidelines by which we operate. It’s not ungodly or uncompassionate. Instead, it’s wise and helpful. It not only allows us to care for others, but it allows us to provide care in a way that is most helpful for them and best uses the resources of our church.
Just as Paul gave Timothy guidelines by which to operate, we too should have guidelines by which we operate. It’s not ungodly or uncompassionate. Instead, it’s wise and helpful. It not only allows us to care for others, but it allows us to provide care in a way that is most helpful for them and best uses the resources of our church.
(1) Set aside a designated amount of money each month that can be used to help others.
When you run across someone needing help, you can help them without feeling like you have to break the bank or kill your budget.
(2) Pray with the person you are helping
I can’t remember if it is someone at my current church or another church that told me this. But basically, they said that the advice they were given in the past was to pray that the person would use the money you are giving them in a God-honoring way or face God’s judgment. If after praying that prayer they still wanted the money, then you should give that to them, leaving it between them and God as to what happens next.
(3) Designate a small portion of your income above and beyond your regular tithe and give that to a benevolence ministry each month.
That could be the church’s benevolence ministry or another ministry like WARM or Wise Choices Pregnancy Resource Center. The point in doing that is that you know your money is going to be used to actually help the person. When you walk past a person begging for money, you don’t have to feel bad because you have already given to a ministry that is local and can meet their need. You can even take it a step further by stopping and pointing that person to that particular ministry.
So those are a few guidelines by which you can operate. Of course, there are more but that should get you started.
I’ll tell you what we currently do at the church I pastor. Hopefully, that will help you get the ball rolling at your church.
(1) We have a system of accountability.
Meaning that one person can’t make the decision to help someone. They have to call another pastor or deacon and run the situation by them first.
(2) We don’t give anyone money or gift cards.
Instead, we will directly pay someone’s bill, rent, or for their groceries.
(3) We have a tiered system of care.
If you are a member, regular attendee, or family or friend of a member, you can receive more assistance than someone who just randomly calls the church.
(4) We have limits on how often you can receive assistance.
Meaning that we aren’t going to continually pay someone’s bills every month without first really digging into the situation and their finances. If someone needs assistance multiple months in a row, then they have to be willing to open their finances up to us and follow a plan we develop for them based on their budget.
(5) We have a budget for benevolence
We refer to that as our Local Mission’s Fund. A small portion of the general tithes and offerings goes into that fund every month. That is what we use to help those in need unless there is a special circumstance that requires more than that fund has. If that happens, we will take up a love offering or vote to use money out of the General Fund to help that family.
So those are some of the guidelines that we as a church operate under. We have put these in place because it allows us to be both compassionate and responsible, stewarding the resources we have as a church, as well as it also forces us to dig into the situation and provide the help the person really needs.
As you can see Mercy Ministry isn’t simple. It is complex. While compassion needs to be what motivates us, we also need responsibility to guide us. It’s compassionate responsibility that’s required in order for us to have an effective mercy ministry. I believe if we operate within that tension, we will be effective. As well as we will truly help those who are in need.
Question for Reflection
- What guidelines do you operate by personally and as a church?
Post developed from my sermon: What’s Required to Have an Effective Mercy Ministry?