This is that time of year when we are told time and again that giving is better than receiving. We hear over and over that this is a wonderful time to serve the least, the lost and lonely. I work for a church and non-profit that serves this specific demographic in an inner city setting. This time of year is also heartbreaking with the phone calls we receive of those in need of help. Desperate people share their desperate stories of ways they are struggling. I wish we could  genuinely really reach everyone who is hurting in a practical way.

Lately, I have also been put in a position where I am coordinating several outreach type endeavors in our community in a variety of ways. As I have been working with families, serving agencies and neighbors I have had some revelations on when help is helpful.

Here are some things to consider as you, your youth and church get involved in “loving your neighbor” through projects and organizations:

Be Informed

There can easily be misconceptions about certain parts of town, people groups or ministries because of what the news or rumors tell us. Most ministries in these areas have safety measures in place and reach out in a way that keeps everyone cared for. Don’t make presumptions because other people tell you to “avoid that area.”  Ask questions from the ministry or project you are serving about the truth of what happens there. Fear can be eradicated with knowledge.

Don’t Ask Them to Do This “Just For You”

Perhaps, when you are honest with yourself the time or location of a service project won’t work this time around. That’s fine.  If you call the ministry and don’t like the location, project or way something is set up please don’t ask them to make an “exception just for you,” in the way they handle things.  There is a reason behind the way they have set up doing what they do, and the way they go about it. If you genuinely don’t feel comfortable with a situation it may be best for you, your family or your group to find another place to give your time. If ministries made concessions for every, “just this time,” both in who they serve or the way they do it, they would only ever making exceptions to their rules.

Who Is This REALLY Helping?

Everyone who wants to give has their heart in the right place. Yet, there are also times when we say we want to help more than we actually do. Schedules don’t always work. I’m not saying not to have a crazy idea and bounce it off the ministry. Yet, what is our response when they say, “If you want to help, you have to do it this way?” Do we start bantering to get our way? Do we start asking for them to change all the rules onour behalf? Is our attitude that they NEED our help? If you come with an idea that involves going above and beyond to help, then go above and beyond. Don’t ask the ministry to lower the bar so you can look more like a hero.


I have worked with several groups who just don’t have the bandwidth to get everyone together to serve on site. This time of year especially can be crazy busy for everyone. Be creative in ways you can financially support a local group. Don’t underestimate that finances are a very genuine way of aiding  ministries. What about supporting some staff of a local non-profit? Could you bake them cookies or show them some love? They are the ones who come everyday to give and probably rarely feel “thanked.” Could you hold a coin drive or something simple to help out? Two years ago a friend of mine wanted to help our ministry. At their youth group Christmas party he asked for gift cards to be donated  as the “price of admission” that could be sent to us to give to families we serve.  Several thousand dollars in cards were given to reach over 300 families.

Thank you for those of you who want to help. It’s important to think outward. You may have decided this year that more of your energy is going to serve those in your own congregation. WONDERFUL!  The point is to serve. Just help, then when Christmas is over, keep loving your neighbor as yourself.

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