I have worked in ministry for more than 20 years. I’ve been on church staff, taught at a Christian school, worked in Christian radio, led a faith-based nonprofit, and most recently worked for a faith-based foundation. I would say that I’m well-seasoned in the world of ministry work.
Just as clothing and hair styles have changed over the years, Christian “styles” have changed as well. Laser lights and smoke machines have been added and subtracted from worship stages. Beards and beanies have come and gone. Coffee shops abound, and social media experts permeate the landscape.
While there is a well-intentioned move in Christian ministry to stay relevant and appealing, I have noticed very little movement in the arena of examining why and how we do charitable work. Yes, we have a biblical mandate to care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. We are called to welcome the stranger. Yet we typically head down the path of least resistance when engaging with the “least of these.”
It was through my two years of serving as the executive director of Love INC of Albuquerque that I got up close and personal with individuals and families who needed help. The reasons for their need varied as widely as the people themselves. Some were victims of violence and had to flee with nothing but the clothing on their backs. Some were being crushed under the weight of medical bills. Some were new to town and needed help getting established.
Sadly, there was also a fair number of people who felt a sense of entitlement, grabbing at anything they could wrap their fingers around. They wanted someone else to provide for all their needs. They wanted the best of what others could provide.
Attempting to create a culture of “helping those who want to help themselves,” we researched other programs, training materials, and best practices. We had meetings and phone calls with leaders in other communities. We prayed and contemplated. We wanted to understand how to walk out our faith in a city that is full of brokenness and desperation. We had some successes and we also had some failures.
One thing I learned through this exploration process is that there are a few organizations out there who are being very intentional about examining how ministry or charitable work is most effectively carried out. There is no one-size-fits-all model that can be implemented. Each nation, each city, has very specific needs and cultures that dictate a different approach. It takes a unique kind of leader to courageously examine the work their organization is doing and recognize that they don’t have all the answers.
I cannot stress enough the importance of examining the work you do or support. If, after a critical examination, you determine that you are perpetuating a model simply because “It’s always been done this way,” it’s time to pause and look around. You may need to consider some difficult questions, like “Does the organization I support really serve our community in a way that makes a lasting impact?” Perhaps you’ve questioned the method of ministry and wondered if it’s as effective as it could be.
Asking these types of courageous questions will be a big part of the upcoming Reimagine Charity seminar. I want to invite you to join nonprofit directors, social program developers, ministry coordinators, leaders, and concerned community members in Albuquerque for Reimagine Charity, a nationally touring interactive seminar that will spark a new imagination for charity. This half-day training and networking event is meant to facilitate an exchange of ideas, research, and experience. In addition, you will be able to connect with other leaders who are pursuing a more flourishing community.
Please carve the time out of your schedule on Friday, August 23, from 9 am until noon. You can find additional information and the link to register by visiting https://shineabq.org/reimaginecharity. I certainly hope you will join us. Beards and beanies are welcome but certainly not required.