Rethinking “Benevolence”

Adam Grant:

“Generosity isn’t saying yes to every request. It’s helping when you can make a unique contribution.”

“Generosity isn’t sacrificing yourself for others. It’s helping when it won’t exhaust you—and when it energizes you.”

(Although there may be times of broad-scale emergency or disaster when what is required will exhaust everyone….as in a hurricane or other disaster. But as a rule our generosity should be able to be part of our daily lives, make a difference for others, and not demand so much of us that we are unable to continue being available to others in a sustainable way..)

These two quotes from Adam Grant give something of the philosophy that Lynn Haven Methodist’s  benevolence ministry has adopted. We are not able to say “YES” to every request for utility assistance, to the growing number of requests for rent payment, to every request for a tank of gas, and more. Such requests have to be reviewed and evaluated in the context of how the need arose, is it a repeated need for this individual, will our help assist the individual to get on track or just put a short term band aid on their problem for another few days or weeks? Are they passing through without verifiable circumstances of where they are coming from or where they are going? Do they live within the defined geographic area of our local ministry efforts? Do they have a recent or frequent history of adverse engagement with law enforcement? Would our help be assisting them to avoid taking responsibility for their own lives?

These are some of the serious questions our benevolence team has explored through study, prayer, and practical working out our guidelines over the last few years. It has resulted in us being able to do more with what we have, do some things we couldn’t have done before, and to say no to some things that we do not feel are within our church’s mission. It has reduced the number of requests from people unwilling to provide information about themselves or their circumstances in order to assist us in evaluating the true extent of the need.

The “unique contribution” that we hope to make is in sharing not only financial or material resources when people come to us, but to also share the Gospel, pray with them, and invite them into fellowship with Christ.