As the Holidays come around a lot of us are experiencing a giving spirit. We look around at all of the charities, churches, and non-profits around and it’s easy to get lost in all of the options. Your giving can have a huge impact and doing so intentionally can be especially powerful. My goal is to convince you that it is necessary to take a bit of extra time to become informed in your giving to reward organizations that are doing the most good.
Ask anyone who has worked at a charity or a mercy ministry; they will all tell you that helping people is complicated and never as simple as it seems. I recently read a book by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert called “When Helping Hurts” that really brought these issues to light for me.
As much as it hurts to say, sometimes ministries can do more harm than good. Some can bring the recipients of charity into a cycle of dependency. People struggling economically are often in unmaintainable situations and helping them can decrease their incentive to escape their toxic circumstances. Ministries that continue to provide resources without a strategy for recovery can potentially be enabling the needy in a negative way.
Sometimes giving can cause the less fortunate to feel disrespected or inadequate. One example of this would be a wealthy ministry giving expensive Christmas gifts to poorer children. In certain situations, this can be wonderful. Thinking a little deeper about this though, a ministry that does this unthoughtfully can make the children’s parents feel ashamed or inadequate.
These topics are difficult to think about and it is much easier to write a check and move on. However, the ministries that work to help the needy holistically deserve to be recognized and funded. Even though everything isn’t black and white and helping isn’t always helpful, taking the time to look into a ministry and to ask difficult questions is worth the time and energy.
Thankfully there are ministries that do a phenomenal job helping people in need. Here are some things to look for in choosing where to donate.
Do they include recovery?
If their ministry includes a recovery process, whether that is job assistance, drug rehabilitation programs, counseling, loans, or other creative solutions; the ministry is on the right track. Recovery programs are not easy and require a lot of dedicated, long-term attention to the needy. Ministries that understand and take this on will make more lasting change in people’s lives.
Are they respectful?
This is difficult to see if you are just clicking the “give here” button on a website, and discovering this often requires effort and some research. If you are able to, ask leaders in the organization about what they do and what they focus on. Also, simply paying attention to the language ministries use in their promotional material can be enlightening.
When Jesus walked the earth, he sat with tax collectors and sinners seemingly treating them and loving them as equals (Mark 2:15). Do the people in the ministries love and respect the people they help? Do they love them, respect them, and see them as equals? We are all a few bad decisions or awful circumstances away from being in bad situations ourselves. Ministries that are loving and value who they are helping are showing Jesus’ love more accurately.
Is it where God is leading you to give?
In all of this, the most important thing to focus on is what God is doing. As Christians our resources are His. Like every decision, do it prayerfully and willingly, ready to do what God asks of you. Be careful not to fall into being overly analytical and forgetting to go to God. He knows each ministry and each person’s needs better than anyone.
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