My church has a benevolence fund, and it is my great joy as pastor to be the one who delivers checks to those in need. We’ve been able to give and give generously to those in the church family who lose a job or have some other family hardship. That is a pastor’s joy.
It is not quite so much fun when one of the Siouxland “regulars” calls the church asking for a handout. There is a group of people who evidently spend their days calling or dropping by churches to ask for money. I’ll be honest, I hate it passionately when one of those folks calls or shows up. I’m not claiming that is the most Christlike aspect of my character, I’m just being truthful.
Here are some of my thoughts:
1) We don’t have the money to take care of all these needs. If we gave 100% of our offerings to those who call to beg, we’d still not have enough. If we did have the money, I’m not sure it is the wisest use of our offerings.
2) These folks tend to network. If you help one, others will surely call (generally with similar stories). When we were giving out money regularly, we got calls nearly daily (especially this time of year). Since we set up policies to check up on people’s stories and not to just give money to people who call and ask for it, we get very few calls anymore.
3) Sometimes, those asking for help can become belligerent and abusive. It makes the process all the more unpleasant.
4) They all have a story that is difficult to check out. And that takes time I don’t have to chase down a story I don’t believe to decide whether or not to give money to people who will almost certainly not change.
5) Every time I’ve taken the time to check out the story, I’ve discovered it to be be a lie. Every single time.
6) They’ve all heard the gospel a million times and many claim to be “saved.”
7) Giving money to some of these folks feels a little bit like giving alcohol to a drunk – you are not helping them, you are enabling them.
8) When I’ve tried to invest time into giving genuine help to those who ask for money as a part of a “holistic” approach, they turn down counseling or advice and simply want cash.
9) In spite of all of that, I hear this voice in the back of my head with Bible verses about “entertaining angels unaware” and giving to those who ask.
So, here’s what our church has done.
1) We continue to have our benevolence fund. We help out members and attenders in need.
2) We also help those who are recommended to the church by church family or other responsible entities. We had a man in our church working at Goodwill who would send folks our way if he sensed their stories were genuine and the need was real. If our members know of someone in the community in need, we will respond.
3) We have a food bank/giveaway that helps those in need.
4) We no longer give money to those who call or drop by the church asking for help. There could be exceptions to that, but that is our basic policy.
5) I continue to feel guilty about it, but that is the best wisdom we’ve come up with.
What say you?