When I was at a meeting with ministers, one of them asked me how a congregation decided what service ministries to support financially and what 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

Background of our congregation

  1. What is the mission of our congregation?
  2. How does this project fit into our overall mission

Source of the request

  1. Who is asking us to consider this cause/group/agency?
  2. Would we consider the request if someone else was asking?
  3. 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.)

Involvement of our congregation

  1. What call(s) to ministry does this organization address?
  2. What opportunities for personal involvement of members of our congregation does this project offer?

Organizational information

  1. Is this organization well managed?
  2. Annual report
  3. Service figures
  4. Audit
  5. Personal testimony
  6. On-site visit

Results of our decision

  1. 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?
  2. How and when will we evaluate (if we contribute):
  3. Our involvement in this project?
  4. The project itself on an ongoing basis?
  5. What kind of publicity will this project provide for our congregation?
    • Positive?
    • Negative?
  6. What are the risks?
  7. What are the opportunities?

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