‘There are many needs in the church and we recognize that people want to respond to them effectively and in a Christlike way.’
Says Deacon Brendan Fox, Team Leader at the Church of the Holy Spirit, where I attend. After lengthy discussion under his leadership the ‘Sharing Forum’ came up with the following guidelines.
Love God, and trust Him. You should help others because God’s love lives in you; not because you want to be admired by people, or because of guilt, or fear that you are not good enough for God. Salvation in Christ is a free gift: you cannot earn it. Trust him to save you. (Eph. 2:10.)
Share Jesus. Serve, and encourage people. Pray with them. Mentor them. Even if you don’t have money or goods to spare, you have love to share. Be sure to keep Jesus at the center of your giving.
Build relationships. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. God wants us to love each other sincerely. (Rom. 12:9.)
Be pure. When helping someone of the opposite sex, don’t fall into sexual temptation. When helping vulnerable adults or children make sure there are witnesses to what you do. Don’t share someone’s secrets without their permission, and share only with people who can help. (Prov. 11:13.)
Be wise. Get to know someone’s weaknesses before trying to help. Giving money to a recovering drug addict or alcoholic can make them go back to drugs or drink. And giving too much easy sympathy and help can weaken a person’s will to care for themselves.
Be discerning. Often, people won’t tell you all you need to know about their lives in order for you to help them effectively. Ask detailed questions that will show up any gaps in their story. Talk to their family, friends and community and find out what they have done to help before, what happened, and what they will be prepared to do in the future. Knowing the facts will help you make better decisions.
Get guidance. If you don’t have experience with the kind of problem a person is asking you to help them with, get advice (please, don’t think you know it all). If you make mistakes, the person you are trying to help will suffer because of them. At CHS, start by asking the Sharing Forum for guidance and resources – see overleaf [on church leaflet – for a comprehensive list of local charitable and emergency aid organisations].
Be practical. Deal with urgent needs immediately (but don’t be pressured into foolish decisions). Then find out what the underlying problems are, and begin to make a practical plan that will help the person move from unproductive dependence towards productive independence (this can be difficult – get guidance when you need it). Make sure the person understands the plan and is able to do their part. Get them to invest something – people often don’t value what they get for free. And don’t make promises you can’t keep. (Titus 3:14.)
Encourage success. Be firm but kind (with yourself as well) and reward responsibility and initiative. Humor and a can-do atmosphere helps. And prayer – because Satan will interfere, and you will have to press through. This is where having made sure that everyone involved is committed will pay off. (1 John 5:4.)
Celebrate (or fail graciously). When you succeed tell the church so we can celebrate with you. It’s a miracle! But, if you fail – and many interventions do – don’t curse the person you tried to help, and don’t pity yourself. Work through it with a support group and celebrate God’s love for you. And please tell the Sharing Forum. We need to hear from you, succeed or fail, so that we can write up anonymous case-histories that can inspire other givers, and that people can learn from. (Heb. 12:1.)