The Tuesday feature of the Worldly Saints is all about reading. The post is meant to share some of my reflections from the latest book or magazine article or blog post I have or am reading. At times, I may post a book blurb (a wannabe book review) or recommend books to be read by others.
Our church is located in SE Wichita, which is an older part of town. It’s not the most dangerous part of town, but it is fairly impoverished. Our church is one of the larger facilities in this part of Wichita, and we are surrounded by neighborhoods and government housing.
We receive 3-4 requests per month (via phone or at our front door) from people in the area who ask for benevolence help. They may ask for food, gas money, help to pay rent, or housing.
When you minister in an urban area like us, this is common. And having a plan of action is critical, because most people who come to your church asking for these kinds of helps are not wanting to change their lifestyle or habits that have taken them to their current poverty. These people often just want “the next thing.”
Our church has been working on a Benevolence Policy, which will be our compass that will help us navigate through how and when we will assist people in these context(s). The Policy will enable us to know the questions to ask in gathering data to determine a real need. The Policy will allow us to better filter out genuine needs from fabricated ones. The Policy will give us the ability to know how much we can assist with at any given time. The Policy will guide us in “all things benevolence.”
The primary resource I have used in helping write this resource in Helping without Hurting in Church Benevolence by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. It is their follow-up book to When Helping Hurts (published in 2014). It is “a practical guide to walking with low-income people.” And if you are a church looking for help in drafting a policy and just need a resource that will help you flag the issues to consider, there isn’t another book I would recommend over this one.
On pages 52-53, there is a list of 19 questions that need to be asked when writing a benevolence policy for your church. They are categorized and listed this way:
Focusing Our Ministry: Whom Will We Help?
- How do we prioritize those seeking assistance?
- Do we have a special opportunity with a specific target group?
Focusing Our Resources: What Type of Help Will We Give?
- What percentage of the benevolence budget will be used for relief and what percentage will be used for development?
- Are there any types of assistance we will not provide?
- How often and how much will we consider giving to people in various categories?
- How will we respond to people who are capable of working but who are unwilling to work fulltime?
- How will we seek to incorporate all adult household members in the process of assistance and long-term change? Specifically, how can we honor and uphold family units—including the relationship between husbands and wives—in the intake and action plan process?
Focusing Our Process: What Procedures Will We Follow?
- How will we design the intake process?
- When will we not require an intake form to be completed in order to receive assistance?
- What sort of fact checking will we do?
- When will we not require an action plan to be completed?
- When and how do we want to utilize other ministries or agencies?
- Will attending church and/or listening to an explanation of the gospel be required in order to receive any assistance?
- What will we do to address abusive or exploitive individuals who may be contributing to the person’s poverty?
- What will we do to address oppressive systems that may be contributing to the person’s poverty?
- What will we do to address the demonic forces that may be contributing to the person’s poverty?
Focusing Our Message: How Will We Share and Solidify Our Guidelines?
- How will we publicize our policies to the church?
- How will we publicize our policies to the community?
- Are there other items we should address in our policies?
I would encourage anyone to invest in this resource for their church or even for their own interaction with those in poverty. It will be a helpful guide in helping re-build the lives of people who are in poverty and help them establish the right work ethic and character necessary to progress.