There are some church benevolence system basics you need to think through before you field your first request for help.
Make decisions about each of the following:
Establish a purpose
Pray about it and search the scriptures. God has a lot to say about generosity and helping those less fortunate.
You need to have a ‘prime directive’ for your benevolence ministry. What should it accomplish? If you don’t spell it out, decisions will be inconsistent, resources may not be used wisely, and you might end up hurting more than you’re helping.
At the same time, make sure it’s a principle and not an iron-clad bureaucracy. You’re interacting with humans, after all.
You should hesitate to define what constitutes ‘financial hardship’. That puts you in the judge’s seat and leans toward dehumanizing the people you’re helping. Let the benevolence requests find you and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and the common sense God gave you.
But you should set some guidelines around:
Last week we explored helping only people in your church vs helping anyone who asks.
Kinds of Benevolence
Think through the kinds of help you’ll provide. Will you:
- pay a utility bill?
- buy groceries?
- pay for prescription medications?
- cover or subsidize rent?
- pay for job training or resume help?
Create a short list, but be sure that you don’t ever make a check payable to the person directly. For lots of reasons.
Does everyone who asks get $1,000? Just $20? Will you give more or less based on whether there are kids involved?
I’m sure there’s no hard and fast rules here, but deciding in advance ballpark amounts will help you.
Will you address only immediate, short-term needs, the complex roots of poverty, or both?
Will you help people if they come back month after month?
These are the kinds of things you need to decide in advance of your first benevolence request.
Create an Application Form
One thing that will prove very useful is having a benevolence request form. It will help you keep track of everything above and collectively give you data that you can use to improve your benevolence system.
It may also serve as a healthy boundary for those prone to abuse your church’s generosity.
As a starting point, you can use my free benevolence request form:
Do the hard work of praying and thinking through these church benevolence system basics and you’re on your way to a healthy, sustainable plan for providing real help to those that need it most.