Here is a small list of causes I have heard from in the past few weeks:
- Homeless families
- Abused kids
- Pro-life advocacy
- Sex trafficking
- Youth at risk
- Christian education
- Battered women
- Disabled veterans
- Cancer research
- Children’s hospitals
- World evangelism
- Disaster relief
- Prison ministry
- Pro-family issues
- Legal defense
- Single Moms
I’m sure you can add significantly to this list. It’s all legitimate and all important. So how do we, as committed followers of a compassionate Lord, respond?
I suggest our responsibility is to discern how God would lead us to set priorities in the face of seemingly endless opportunities to serve “the least of these.” I suggest there are four levels of response available to us: Prayer, Financial Support, Volunteering and Advocacy.
I believe God’s people should be concerned and engaged in addressing all these spheres of need, but not at the same level of engagement. Here is my advice.
We should commit to lift all these needs to God in prayer. Whether we name them one-by-one or pray for them together, God’s people should be praying for the issues that break God’s heart. Make a list of all the needs God brings to your attention and pray over them every day.
You may think it strange that this is not the top level of engagement, but writing a check or sending an on-line donation by credit card is one of the easiest ways of addressing needs. Here is the key point. As we lift these needs to the Lord, He will create in us a passion for some subset of these needs. We may have a general sympathy for all of them, but we will be led to a deeper engagement with a few. Giving should always be a response to prayer and a sense that God is leading us to invest His resources His way. It should NEVER be a response of guilt or pressure from anyone. We should only give when God leads us to give and to whom God leads us to support. But beware lest you think this will result in a decrease in your giving. If we are sincerely seeking to be obedient to give as the Lord leads us, both in the breadth of causes and amount of our support, we will likely always be challenged to give more abundantly than ever before. As a result, we will also be encouraged to trust the God of abundance to provide for our needs. Give as God leads, give abundantly and give with joy.
How we use our time says more about our true priorities than how we spend our money. Again, this should be a response to prayer and discernment. If time is a gift from God for us to steward for God’s glory, we must trust that He will show us where He would have us invest this precious resource to further His kingdom. We will usually volunteer for organizations that we also support financially. It is the next level of engagement and it will be saved for a small number of organizations that represent issues about which we are the most passionate.
By advocacy I mean a level of engagement that includes our proactive, intentional outreach on behalf of the ministry. Without being asked, we tell our friends, write in our social media platforms, open doors to potential new financial supporters and make ourselves available beyond filling normal volunteer assignments. We are one of those few reliable, loyal and faithful partners that make nonprofits successful. This level of engagement is usually reserved for only one or two ministries, and it requires great discernment of God’s leading in this significant use of our time, skills and passion.
So, back to our list of the dozens (or more) of opportunities that will present themselves. I encourage you to do four things:
- Lift them all up in prayer, and then through prayer and God’s leading,
- Be generous with those that align with your passions,
- Volunteer with those few organizations where God is nudging you to invest your time, and
- Be ready for God to encourage you to take this final step of becoming an advocate where your heart is in greatest alignment with a cause that touches the heart of God.
One final word. I said earlier that guilt is never the right motivator for any of these four responses. You can’t help every organization and respond to every need. You’re not supposed to. You are called to be an obedient steward of the resources God entrusts to you according to His leading. And then trust that God will lead others to supply the needs of all those great causes that you are not led to support. Do all that God calls you to do, and leave the rest in God’s hands.
My hope is that you will be kept from being overwhelmed and free you from every form of guilt as you face the tsunami of opportunities to give this year. Your prayers are vital for these ministries to flourish. Don’t devalue them. If you will listen for God’s leading, He will help you give generously, volunteer appropriately and advocate faithfully. In doing so, you will sense the joy of giving that He desires for all His followers.