Guidelines for Helping Others Part 3: Deeply Involved Over the Long Haul

I think it was Shane Claiborne who said, (I’m paraphrasing here) one of the biggest problems we have here in the U.S. is that Christians don’t know the poor.  It’s not that they don’t care about them, but that they don’t know them.  Knowing people changes our perspective and can teach us a lot.

  1. Offer a Team of Encouragers – I have offered to surround someone in need with a team of encouragers to meet with them weekly. We develop a contract of trust and commit to one another.  We require honesty and respect and the person we are helping is the leader of the group.  We assist that person with encouragement and developing a plan to meet their own goals.  The person makes the goals and we help give ideas and commit to praying and encouraging them.  This takes a team of people and can feel exhausting emotionally or just one or two people to walk with someone.
  2. Create a contract for clear boundaries and communication. If you decide to get deeply involved, create a contract together of what each person will do.  I’m glad to share an example of such a contract with anyone who contacts me.   We offer free meals at our church family supper once a week for example.  Decide who is responsible with what and be sure everyone on the team feels empowered to do their part.  Be clear about what would break the contract.  Talk about these and decide which ones need to go in writing.
  3. Goals should be made by that person, not by us. We should not push our opinions of what we think this person needs to do onto them.  That would be paternalistic.  They should make their own goals and we can support them and encourage them along the way.  Goals can be included as a part of the contract or separately.  Just asking, “What are your life goals?” and “How can I help you achieve your goals?” over a meal can be empowering and offer hope to someone.  Many people in desperate situations have never or rarely been asked these questions.
  4. Help Through Empowerment. I’ve learned a lot over the years about how our trying to “help” can actually further hurt people. Be sure you’re not creating categories of “helper and helpee.”  Be creative in doing tasks together equally, together and in a way that empowers both people in the relationship.  Ask yourself if what you’re doing would feel degrading if someone did that for you.
  5. Help People Earn Everything. What we earn we appreciate.  Earning boosts self-esteem.  In a tutoring program we help students earn everything.  They feel so proud of themselves when they earn things and meet their own goals. This paves the way for them to be more successful in greater things.  For example, students earn a large snack bag if they complete all their homework and behave well.  Very rarely do we have to send someone away because the children love these snack bags!  Some of these students come from generational poverty, so starting to teach them work and effort produce something they earn gives them a greater chance at savoring other things to earn in life.
  6. Help People Find a Way to Give Back.  This is essential for building self-esteem> Sometimes people who have nothing need help realizing they do have something.  They have time and they have their willingness.  Finding a good volunteer job can bring hope, connect someone to a good group of people and might can even become a paid job.  Volunteering gives back through a supervisor being able to provide a good reference for someone.  We all have something we can give no matter who we are!  Help others by encouraging them to serve too.  Offer to serve with them their first time.

If you decide to help someone, please don’t do it alone.  Recruit a group to help you.  Also, please remember you’re probably meeting with a person that’s hurting.  Not being involved for the long haul can hurt them further.  Commit to this person and keep moving even when they fail.  If they fail and are honest about it, keep marching!  We helped one woman from homelessness to stability over a year and a half.  She responded to the Gospel and is now stable.  This process can take longer or less time depending on the situation.  May God bless all our efforts to reach out!

Guidelines for Helping Others Part 2: Do’s and Don’ts

Once I become more deeply involved in helping people I have discovered these do’s and don’ts to be helpful and I hope they can help you too.  These principles are especially helpful when we are involved helping family members and those we already know and have a relationship with as well.  Creating boundaries for us with loved ones is extra challenging because we might have to undo some of what we have done.

  1. Never do for someone what they can do for themselves. It’s ok to do something with someone, but not “for” them.  It’s degrading to make a phone call for someone for example when they’re perfectly able to do that on their own.  It’s also degrading to treat people like they cannot do anything.
  2. Always deepen their community and yours. I’ve learned that many people who beg have no positive community in their lives.  Most don’t even know any successful people so they are operating out of what they know.  When someone approaches us it’s an opportunity to learn from that person’s life and to help connect them to a positive group that can empower them to make progress.
  3. Get rid of your “God Complex.” A God complex is a paternalistic attitude that I know it all and I’m here to teach and lead this person in the way I think is right for them.  The Bible is clear that we are no better than the person asking us for money.  If in my mind I’m thinking I’m better than this person or if I think I have great skills and I can tell this person what to do, I’ve ruined any chance of having a transformational relationship with them.  If I’m thinking about them in a degrading way and I need to repent of this attitude.  I can learn from this person’s story and share my own story with them and God can do amazing things when I humble myself and love someone I just met.
  4. Realize we are all lacking.  I have things I lack too. The richest person in the world still has issues in their life.  We all lack something and we all have weaknesses.  Share what you’re lacking with a person experiencing financial poverty and you might discover that person can help you in your own weaknesses whether it be that you lack forgiveness, good health, intimacy or any other thing.  God has a way of connecting us all together towards healing.
  5. Beware of “feelings.” Many have shared with me how good they feel while on a mission trip that they are helping someone or doing something significant.  This is a self-serving, narcissistic reason to go on mission or help someone.  Sometimes the very thing we feel like doing is the thing that can cause the most damage to someone else.  As Christians we go on mission to serve people so we can share the Gospel message, not so we can “feel good” about ourselves.  That would be in essence using people so we can have a good feeling.

In part three I’ll share a wonderful strategy we have utilized to help people who consider themselves at rock bottom.  This is a long process but it can work!  Stay tuned for Part 3!

 

Guidelines for Helping Others: Being Approached by a Beggar Part 1

“Do I know you?”  “What church do you go to?”  “Maybe that’s where I know you from?”  My friend responded saying she attended First Baptist and the conversation ensued in the aisle of a dollar store. The man then told her his car needed repair and asked her to buy him a certain belt for his car that he needed.  It only cost $17.99.

These situations are uncomfortable for us.  Random people in our communities reach out to us for money.  Of course Christians who take their faith seriously genuinely care about people in need, so how do we make the best decisions in these situations?  If we say no, we worry we might be putting our personal safety at risk.  We also worry we might be contributing to an addiction.  If my friend purchased a belt for this man he could easily return it and use the money for something else.  How he will pay for his vehicle to be repaired if he cannot afford $17.99 for a belt?  Or maybe, this isn’t really about a belt at all? How are we to trust what a stranger that we just met tells us?  How do we avoid being scammed as scamming is all over the place in our society today?  What’s the best thing to do in these situations?  We all want to obey God by caring for people.  What’s the best course of action?  These situations require us to think fast on our feet as we don’t ever feel prepared for something like this.

Here are some principles I seem to operate from in these situations:

  1. I never give cash. I never give cash because I don’t want to be a part of enabling someone in an addiction.  Many people who approach others for money struggle with substance abuse and I don’t believe it’s the best choice to hand cash.  We cannot truly know what the situation is in just one encounter with someone.
  2. Listen with compassion. Jesus had compassion and we need to learn to be compassionate and less judgmental in these situations.  Listen and find something they are sharing that you can apply in number 3 below.
  3. Offer to pray for this person right then and there. Most people appreciate a prayer and praying over someone in the moment they are reaching out for a need can open the door the Holy Spirit to work in someone’s life.  Many people are brought to tears when I pray for them in the moment.  Anyone reaching out for money has needs and  generally will share them.
  4. Feed someone and share a conversation together. If the person indicates they need money for food, sometimes I offer to go to a nearby restaurant and share a meal with them over conversation where you have the opportunity to get more deeply involved. Many people have declined my offer.  In that situation I know they’re not really hungry and they just want cash.  I never offer food without building a relationship with that person.  See # 6 for more on this.
  5. Assess needs and refer accordingly. I’m glad to assess the situation and refer someone to a local agency to help with their needs.  These agencies deal with this all the time and have records of needs and can assess much better than I can in a cold turkey situation. We have a tremendous amount of organizations that meet many kinds of needs in our community.  Know these organizations well and refer people as you have conversations and learn about needs.
  6. Offer transportation help to a local agency where they can get the help they need. As a woman I never do this if I’m alone.  If I’m with someone I ask them if it would be ok to transport someone to an organization where they can get help and we proceed from there.  I certainly am dependent on discernment for this one.  If I’m feeling led to do this I do it.  If not, I don’t.

My friend did not buy this man a belt and I’m glad she didn’t.  The way he approached her asking personal questions trying to make a connection probably indicates he has done this many times before.    Asking for cash is an art form and a craft that can be perfected.  Genuinely help people, but let’s not get scammed into contributing to someone’s addiction.  When we’re able to engage someone we cannot stop there.  Be on the lookout for part 2 and 3 about how to take these relationships into a positive healing community experience.  Let’s not grow weary of doing good and press on together!

 

You Say, “I’m Pro Life,” But Are You REALLY?

I’m praying for those who have aborted a child as I cannot even imagine the pain this political season brings to them. Some who have aborted regret their decision later and this pain can linger for years and years. It’s a pain that isn’t spoken of except in the utmost of confidential situations like with a pastor or therapist. This can even be painful for men too, but our culture doesn’t seem to acknowledge this. I’m sure opening social media and seeing the recent reactions to NY decisions is haunting.

I am Pro Life. For me this isn’t just a belief but something I put into action to care for the orphan or displaced child.  When it comes down to it, it’s our actions that truly communicate what we believe.  This belief is also what causes me to pray for those who I know are suffering because of political posts if they have aborted and regret it.  To me, being Pro Life is respecting for and caring for ALL humans; it’s not just about abortion.  Pro Life means we value life from the beginning all the way until the end!

QUESTION: If you are Pro Life are you just opinionated, or does this belief affect your lifestyle? Does it affect your wallet? Who are you caring for that’s connected to this political issue? Posting an opinion on social media doesn’t change the world but caring for others does. What if every person who has shared a rant on here was actively helping out?

If you’re in need of some ideas on how to help or live out a Pro Life belief here’s a few ideas:

Good Pro Life responses are:

  • Donate to your local Pro Life center
  • Support a group home/orphanage
  • Take care of even just one displaced child through foster care or adoption
  • Support a foster parent, adoptive parent
  • Become a Guardian ad Litem and advocate for children in court
  • Be sensitive to others when you post on social media (pause and ask yourself about ALL the people an issue affects before you post.  Most rash posting is done in anger and can be causing more harm in our society than good.)
  • Care for the aging
  • Care for the disabled, mental and/or physical
  • Care for those who have made mistakes and are in prison
  • Care for the addict

We truly believe that which we live out. What do your actions say you believe?  What if we looked at Pro Life issues holistically like I’m suggesting here?

Yes, I’m aware this is my rant too… I just pray my words, efforts and lifestyle can lead others into action, the kind that really changes the world.

Misunderstanding Baptists: Soul Freedom

“So in reality Baptists are the most broad-minded of all people in religion.”  My Southern  Baptist Sunday School class full of young Baptists in their 20s burst into laughter when I read this statement to them!  This quote comes from The Baptist Faith and Message written by Herschel H. Hobbs.  I’m using an edition that was published in 1971.  It’s the explanation of the Baptist faith and explains which distinctive beliefs are so important to Baptists. After laughing, our conversation then shifted to how misunderstood we are in society.

One of the basic beliefs of the Baptist faith is called, “soul freedom,” or the “competency of the soul. “  It’s explained here quoted from the same book I mentioned above:

“Baptists insist that every man shall be free to decide for himself in matters of religion.  Baptists have ever been the champions of soul freedom, not for themselves alone but for all men.  Thus it is that Baptists believe that a person has the right to be a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Jew, infidel, atheist, or whatever he chooses to be.”

“They (Baptists) grant to every man the right that he shall be free to believe as he wants.  But they insist upon the same right for themselves.  The moment a Baptist seeks to coerce another person – even another Baptist – in matters of religion, he violates the basic belief of Baptists.”

I’m guessing what you just read is probably quite shocking to you?  This might even shock some Baptists too?  Our society would probably define a Baptist as a closed-minded, judgmental person who isn’t very open to hearing the opinions of others.  Herschel Hobbs also writes, “If there is any judging to be done, it is God’s responsibility, not man’s.”

Baptists are very concerned that everyone in our world hears and understands the Gospel Message of the Bible.  We are not out to judge, but to share this message and every person has the opportunity to respond to this message how they choose.  We are not out to coerce anyone but to share what God has done for humanity.  It is only God who draws mankind to Himself through the Holy Spirit.  Baptists do not believe this happens through coercion or human persuasion of any kind.  Nobody becomes a Christian through an argument, manipulation or coercion.  We simply share faith and we believe all people have the right to respond as they choose.  And, as I quoted above, “if there is any judging to be done, it’s God’s responsibility, not man’s.”

What do Baptists Believe?  Maybe we should do some reading before we come to conclusions on what a Baptist believes.   I’m assuming many Baptists out there can also use a refresher on what they believe as well.  Maybe some who call themselves a Baptist should choose another term for themselves?  As a good Baptist, I leave this up to them to decide!

One Way to Evaluate Our Mission Involvement

My grandfather went on several mission trips to Mexico years ago.  When he arrived back home he would light up when he told us how many tracts they had given away on the street corners.  This was their main task: handing out little folded papers that had Bible verses on it that shared the Gospel. As a person involved in missions now I believe what he did was a waste of time and resources.  I know many Mexican people and have good relationships with them.  I’m well aware that some of them are illiterate.  I’m also aware that their culture is very relational.  Handing out tracts isn’t the “best” thing.

So, how do we gauge what to do and what not to do in Christian missions?  Our resources are limited, so how do we know if we’re using our resources in the best place?

One test to help us answer this question is something I learned from a missionary in Nigeria.  I don’t know if this concept is unique to him or if he learned this from someone else.  All I’m saying is I cannot take credit for this as it’s not my original idea.  It has certainly stuck with me and helped me fine tune various ministries I’ve led and it’s been successful for us.

He shared three words:

GOOD ->  BETTER->  BEST

We can do many “good” things for God.  We would all say that helping someone is a good thing.  But is it the best thing?  We can evaluate our “good” things and make them even better in the work that we do, but how do we know if we are doing the “best” thing when we are choosing what to do and what not to do on a daily basis in our mission ministries?

GOOD – I can do many acts of kindness, but so can someone who isn’t a Christian!  I know many kind, giving people who aren’t Christians.  What makes the Christian different than any other volunteer who serves an organization?  Can we even call this “Christian ministry?”

BETTER – The difference is we have been transformed by the Gospel message and that is the very reason we have a desire to do an act of kindness.  So, we can take our good thing and make it better if we share the Gospel as we go along.  We should always be ready to share the reason for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).  We need to constantly be finding ways to put more God in what we’re doing!  How can we take our good things and make them deeper missionaly?

The BEST thing is sharing the Gospel with people who respond to it and in turn those who responded sharing it with others.  When someone finds transformation they want others to know about it!   We need to be providing atmospheres for this to happen.  Of course this requires us to appreciate and be excited about our own faith experience and we need to be willing to share it.

One way this has been fleshed out among us is we developed a camp for at-risk kids that were referred to us by school social workers.  50% of the kids who came to camp accepted Christ for the first time after hearing the Gospel many times throughout the camp experience.  One of our volunteers felt led to open her home to those who were new believers to create a space to disciple them and help them grow.  These kids invited their friends to come hear what they has experienced.

Do not despair if you’re doing too many good things!  You can make them better by being intentional at sharing the Gospel as you go along and be thinking about what you’ll do when someone comes into the Kingdom!   Have that plan in place and ready!

And remember: He who tried and failed is much better than he who didn’t try at all!

So take your good things and build relationships through then so you can share the Gospel and watch God move in powerful ways.  Ask God to transform those who are the recipients of the Good News in your ministries.

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