When I was at a meeting with ministers, one of them asked me how a congregation decided which service ministries to support financially and which ministries for them to create or be involved with. I explained that a congregation needed to determine what best suited their understanding of their own mission and then go from there. Because I knew this particular congregation, I offered some specific suggestions. Shortly after that, the meeting ended and I began to leave.
Before I reached the door, however, I remembered something that I wanted to tell another minister at the meeting. When I went back in, he was talking with the person who had originally asked the question. I overheard him sharing about how my book, Loving Our Neighbor—A Thoughtful Approach to Helping People in Poverty more completely answered the questions. That was a wonderful affirmation for me and for the book!
Indeed, Loving Our Neighbor is a great resource for congregations struggling with the questions the minister asked. Chapter 8 describes different approaches for offering assistance, Chapter 9 discusses setting up a direct aid ministry, and Chapter 11 provides a tool for evaluating benevolence requests. Here is a worksheet from Chapter 11 for helping to evaluate what ministries/programs a congregation might support.
Worksheet: Benevolence Evaluation Questions
I.Background of our congregation
- What is the mission of our congregation?
- How does this project fit into our overall mission?
II. Source of the request
- Who is asking us to consider this cause/group/agency?
- Would we consider the request if someone else was asking?
- What personal concerns does this organization address? (For example: The Council for Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy might address the concern that our own teenager may become pregnant or get someone pregnant.)
III. Involvement of our congregation
- What call(s) to ministry does this organization address?
- What opportunities for personal involvement of members of our congregation does this project offer
IV. Organizational information
- Is this organization well managed?
- Annual report
- Service figures
- Personal testimony
- On-site visits
V. Results of our decision
- If we decide to contribute to this project, shall we give a one time special offering or shall we put it in the annual budget?
- How and when will we evaluate (if we contribute):
- Our involvement in this project?
- The project itself on an ongoing basis?
- What kind of publicity will this project provide for our congregation?
- What are the risks?
- What are the opportunities?