I was reflecting recently about a conversation I had with an individual who was struggling financially. In the midst of the discussion he admitted to me a concern he had when we reached out to him, that we had a hidden motive in assisting his family. He thought that I was sharing resources we had in order to force them to attend our church and join the membership. This caught me off guard, I did not know how to respond initially as our intent was to love and serve others in need.
Let’s pause for a second, why is it that a simple act of love is now received with a measure of reservation? It wasn’t this way always but over the recent years a focus has grown in seeing agendas in acts of service. I do not blame individuals who in their heart set up plans to serve, we just need to own this with no agenda or guided measures but with a desire to reach out. I remember a member of the board of elders I was serving ask me a simple yet profound question “So if we are to do what you are planning how do we judge success?” I responded with a question “What is success in your eyes?” the response to my question blew me away “We need to get them in the pews of our church”. A desire to serve the community in my city was now being reviewed in a “business plan” type of way. We do this action to get people in the seats. Wow I think Jesus saw this much different, then how we see it today. But to defend the board member, the traditional model of outreach was always done in the church to indeed raise the attendance and allow others to hear the gospel. While it is not a bad thing to reach out to bring people to our faith community, we do however need to make sure that the act of outreach is not driven by any agenda outside of reaching out in the love of Jesus.
The reason I am writing this is to challenge you all to do outreach to the holistic family in your church or youth ministry and do it with no hidden agendas. We established a plan three years ago to have gift cards donated to the church to then hand off to the local High School to give out to families in need. The church responded with over $2000 in $20 gift cards over the three years we operated this plan. Phase one, I met with the board and told him that I wanted to establish this with no agenda. I was talking to a number of men who focus their secular work energy on productivity with resources. They challenged me to review what success is for any project we initiate. I took that challenge and then met with them and said we need to trust God to do what He will do in the lives of those family members that we serve with this project and to sit back for a year to review what happens. They agreed so I went to the second step which was presenting this plan to the school authorities. I met with the head of the student services and had a whole plan together. It felt like I rambled for ten minutes uninterupted. I told her about the plan, how we are doing this to give cards to families in need from any grocery store, gas station etc, one’s that give practical needs. I told her we are giving them to the school and need not know where they are going or who they are going to. I told her our soul desire was to work with the school to help those families who are in need the most. She was stunned that we did not need to know specifics about who they are going to, all we want is the families to know where they are coming from. This plan blew her away, she said to me that she was expecting a whole agenda that we had in order to do this. She literally looked at me and said “How could we possibly say no”.
Three years later it is still running and the church owns it, I have left that church to my delight an entirely different ministry in the church is now running it and are in touch with the school to carry it forward. We gave out over 100 gift cards to many families with the only agenda being to love them as Christ demonstrates to us. I want to make this a challenge in planning outreaches to do it where the only agenda is the action itself. Keep serving and loving like Christ demonstrated to all of us, Would love to discuss this further, send me a note, Cheers, Don
Don Bennett, Oakville Senior High Youth Pastor, The Meeting House