There's no question that the Bible addresses our responsibility to the poor. But even with the best intentions, it's not always easy for churches to know where to begin. If your congregation is looking for ways they can support your community's needs, here are a few tips to help your church serve the poor in your area.
1. Partner with local charities and ministries
It's been said that enormous good can be done when it doesn't matter who gets the credit. Unfortunately, churches often mistakenly think of all ministry as outreach. The goal is to do good and attract people to a church service. It's easy to forget that loving others isn't a growth strategy; it's a reflection of our spiritual vitality and commitment.
When we're willing to join other church, para-church, or secular organizations already serving the poor in our communities, we significantly multiply the effectiveness of the work they're doing. And as we do so, we demonstrate the love of Christ to those we serve and those we serve alongside. Even if they don't end up visiting our churches, we help to plant and water gospel seeds in their lives.
2. Put your building to good use
There are a lot of churches that sit dormant throughout most of the week. By finding creative ways to put your building to use, you can do a lot of good in your community. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Provide low-cost childcare
- Start a food pantry
- Put on a job fair
- Use your classrooms to offer résumé coaching or GED preparation
Your building might be one of your most valuable resources. Consider ways you can put it to good use to meet people's basic necessities and give them some hope for their future. This can even be a productive way to help other ministries who could use extra space.
3. Focus on specific needs
One of the reasons that ministering to those in need feels so overwhelming is because we're overcome by general need. When we focus on the broad category of "poverty," the problem seems too sweeping to make any real headway. But like the old adage says, "The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time."
Once you narrow the needs down to a specific category, it's much easier to focus and make a real impact. Instead of simply "serving the poor," look for particular categories of need in your community that you're passionate about addressing. Maybe that means focusing on homelessness, single mothers, or senior care. Focus on a specific demographic and watch your productivity improve dramatically.
Don't forget the need in your own congregation
While we don't want to use this as an excuse not to show Christ's love to our communities, it's critical that we meet the needs that exist in our own congregations. The early church set an example of what a generous, Spirit-filled community looked like, and it focused on taking care of one another (Acts 2:44–45). In fact, it's the love and concern that we show to each member of the body that demonstrates that we are truly the children of God (John 13:35).
When it comes down to it, the best thing churches can do to serve the poor is to pray for opportunities and respond to the needs we see. In this way, we can start being salt and light in our local communities.