Helping without Hurting in Holiday Giving: Moving Beyond Handouts

As the holidays approach, many churches and nonprofits undertake large-scale food and resource drives, attempting to tap into the spirit of abundance and generosity that characterizes Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations in North America.

While such events and activities are often successful at raising awareness of issues facing the community (especially housing and food insecurity), they often apply relief in the form of handouts to large numbers of people without asking whether it is the best or most helpful way to engage with them. These efforts don’t usually lead to long-term transformation or connect people to the best services for their current needs.

Even churches and ministries that do seek to serve their communities in asset-based, participatory ways year-round can feel pressure from ministry supporters and volunteers to administer needs-based handouts of food, clothing, or toys during the holiday season.

How can we ensure our holiday ministry efforts match the principles and practices of healthy ministry we try to pursue in other seasons? How can we help re-direct holiday donations and volunteer hours to more effective and sustainable ministry efforts?

Justin Lonas, Chalmers’ director of foundational products, recently had a conversation with four of our Chalmers Ambassadors working among vulnerable populations—Jason Bull and Trinity Beck of Medford (Ore.) Gospel Mission, Scott Turbeville of Lighthouse Ministries (Lakeland, Fla.), and Kimmy LaMee of The Bridge (a ministry of First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, S.C.)—to talk through how best to help without hurting in holiday ministry.

We hope you find some encouragement and fresh ideas from their experiences and insights!

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The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center helps God’s people rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing.

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