For most religious people, faith and good works go hand in hand. Those who love God are called to care for others, particularly those who are in need. No matter how many resources a society has, there are always those who seem to fall through the cracks. This is where the local church comes in.
Your church probably has some programs in place to help the poor. There may be other ways to serve that you haven't thought of yet, though.
1. Start With Your Own Faith Community
The best place to start is to learn to recognize the needs of your own members. This takes a certain measure of grace and gentleness, of course. While many people may have no qualms about asking for the help they need, you don't want to single out anyone who may already feel embarrassed by their circumstances.
Small discussion groups offer a safe space for people to voice their personal struggles to others, and you probably already have some groups in place. Train leaders to identify needs that the church can meet. You may also consider empowering the leaders of these groups to tap into the church's resources and help without having to divulge the identity of the person receiving it.
2. Brainstorm Ideas
If you feel like your church could be doing more to help the poor, it is likely that you are not alone. If you have an outreach committee already in place, volunteer to join so you can brainstorm new ways to serve with people who are already passionate about doing so.
This process is likely to result in more ideas than you can feasibly put into action. It's easy to get excited and rush into everything you have in mind, but this can lead to burnout if you're not careful. Take the time to pray together, asking for discernment when choosing the service areas you are going to focus on.
3. Pool Your Resources
Every church needs a go-to fund for people in need. If this is not already a line item in your church's budget, it should be. Talk to church leaders about the importance of including it in the next revision, and encourage the congregation to designate donations specifically for this fund.
Don't just think in terms of money, though. Sometimes people need help with things that members of your congregation can simply volunteer to do for them. For example, people with mobility issues may need basic home repairs that they can no longer do themselves but can't afford to hire help on their fixed incomes. Host a monthly workday for members of the congregation with those skills to volunteer their time to help out.
4. Connect With Local Organizations
You may have a lot of great ideas for outstanding programs to feed, clothe, and house the poor in your city. Chances are, however, that there are already organizations that have been doing this work for years. By partnering with them, you can stretch your own resources.
Many churches are familiar with local soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and food pantries. These are not the only organizations that seek to lessen the impact of poverty, though. Think outside the box to find groups that push back against common practices that tend to put people without vast resources at a disadvantage. There are several things that may need improvement in your local community:
- Livable wages
- Affordable housing
- Reliable public transportation
- Robust public libraries
No matter where you live, there are likely people in need all around you. Your church can be a force for good in your city by learning to recognize and meet as many of those needs as possible.