Doing Benevolence Ministry in Your Unique Context
In our Helping without Hurting in Benevolence Ministry training, we share principles and tools to help you build a ministry that leads to real change. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every church. In order to create a benevolence program that works for your specific church context, you may need to make adjustments to fit your church’s specific capacity.
Local churches can vary dramatically in terms of the financial, human, and networking resources they can devote to their benevolence ministries. For example, most small- to mid-sized churches do not have full-time, paid staff to oversee their benevolence work, while some larger churches do. Here are some questions that can guide you toward creating a healthy benevolence ministry that works for you.
- How many members/regular attendees does your church have?
- How many paid staff does your church have? Count ministerial roles, not administrators or support staff (unless they help with outreach/benevolence).
- What is your current annual benevolence budget? Include only the money specifically given toward or earmarked for caring for those in poverty in your church and/or community.
Once you’ve answered these questions, consider the following levels to help you focus on building a benevolence ministry that fits your church.
Recommendations for Small Churches with Limited Resources
If your church is small, has limited staff, and has a small benevolence budget, some of the ways you might need to adapt your plans include:
- If your chief limitation is around staff, you’ll want to invest a lot of time in recruiting, training, and sustaining volunteers.
- If your chief limitation is around not being able to serve the volume of requests for assistance you are currently seeing, you might want to invest heavily in getting to know other churches and ministries in your area and become adept at referring people to the best place to receive the help they need.
- If your chief limitation is around budgets, focus your efforts on relationship-development and discipleship. It may be that your church can provide the long-term relational connections people need, even as some of their financial considerations are provided by a larger church/organization or social services agency.
Recommendations for Small Churches with Modest Resources
If your church has a mix of limited and abundant resources available for this ministry, the following are ways you might need to adapt your plans:
- If your strongest point is staff, consider hiring or appointing a paid staff member to oversee and develop your benevolence ministry.
- If your strongest point is the number of attendees you have, you are probably well-suited to cultivating a healthy, committed group of volunteers. It would be wise to invest the time required to recruit, train, and sustain them.
- If your strongest point is financial, make definitive plans for how to spend your benevolence resources deeply, not just widely. Consider investing in bigger growth opportunities for the individuals and families your church is walking with. You may even want to look at partnership with other churches or organizations with more relationships among the materially poor but fewer financial resources and enable them to do more than their limited budgets allow.
Recommendations for Larger Churches with Abundant Resources
If you are in a large church blessed with abundant resources for ministry, all the plans in the section above would apply to you as well. You can also consider:
- Equipping dedicated benevolence staff to train other churches for this work.
- Providing a robust volunteer training as part of your ongoing discipleship of your members so that they are equipped to faithfully serve alongside other churches/organizations that your church supports.
- Becoming a resource hub, intentionally cultivating relationships with other churches and organizations with deep relational roots in low-income communities and funding their effective benevolence ministries at a higher level than their members can provide.
Recommendations for Very Large Churches with Abundant Resources
If your church is among the the largest, best-equipped churches, you might find some of the suggestions for the other groups listed above helpful, but also consider:
- Dedicating training and resources to equip regional nonprofits and even government agencies, as you have access, to think holistically and developmentally about poverty alleviation in your community.
- If you have a large public ministry (through radio, television, podcasts, conferences), use that influence to call others in your church and beyond to heed God’s call to love others in word and deed, and take a holistic approach to all kinds of ministry.
- You may be able to start specific ministries under the umbrella of your church with dedicated staff and funding to target specific areas of development in your community—jobs and entrepreneurship training, financial education and matched savings, housing, medical care, etc.
While the underlying principles are the same, each Benevolence Ministry can be uniquely designed to pursue flourishing in the four key relationships with God, self, other, and creation.