Nonprofits and ministries have a common goal to help others and to get as many volunteers as possible to help others. Why? Because the need is greater than the resources to meet the need. It’s why they are constantly asking for help. They see the need and never have enough resources to meet it. At least not on a worldly level. We have the opportunity to connect with all the people that need help. They are in our daily lives. They are at our place of employment, at the grocery store, in our neighborhood, at our church, on the street, and wherever we hang out. If we follow Jesus style of ministry we have the power to change the world. For if each of us simply connected with those in front of us we would affect mass change. Here is how.
- Get yourself out of the way.
God’s command to love others is key in connecting to people. Why? Because we are prone to bias and to be self-focused when helping others. We are naturally drawn to help some people and not others and on the surface there is nothing wrong with that. When I was the Director of a pregnancy center we didn’t have sports enthusiasts volunteer to help in our parenting program. Why? Because it didn’t fit their interests. It makes sense. Yet, we are called to a higher form of service and that type of service is focused completely on others and not self-interests. If you want to minister to those in your everyday life then you have to do so thinking more of pleasing God and helping people than of yourself. Let’s be honest. Who has the time or energy for this? We need to focus on God to help us fulfill the mission.
Ask yourself some questions to ensure your motivation is right:
- What is my motivation for helping?
- Is my desire to help actually a desire to satisfy something in my life?
- How does this benefit me?
- Does this type of helping meet their needs or mine?
- Am I helping in an celebrated way?
- Does my service to others mimic Jesus style of ministry?
Well-meaning people used to enter our doors asking how they could help. If we couldn’t meet their true desires for helping they wouldn’t stick around very long. If the volunteer opportunities didn’t place some of them in a position to be publicly acknowledged, or didn’t meet their needs then they left after our first meeting. All of the world hurts. Everyone from every walk of life. God asks us to make disciples of mankind. He doesn’t specify which part of mankind should receive our attention. He doesn’t say stay within your race, nationality, culture, or cubicle at work. He says go. Reach the nations. To do that we must look to Him and we must deny our interests, needs, and desire for applause.
- Find commonalities
We were made by God. Start there. Every unique person that God beautifully made has something they can teach us, share with us, and can enrich our lives. Every single one. Look past what you see and look at what God sees. Look for the hurt, the pain, the confusion, and the desire for hope. We all share in the suffering and trials of life. Everyone is searching for hope. Find a common ground to start from and use that as a springboard to get to know them. If you have to rely on good ole demographics. If we have encountered these people in our daily lives there is a good chance we share something with them. We may share a common interest, the same city, food, an organization, a place, a time, you name it. Find a commonality and use it as a springboard for ministering to this person.
Jesus at the well. He simply came up to her. “Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” (John 4:7)
Jesus reached out to someone much different than Him. In fact, most would not have bothered with her. Jesus was weary and needed water. This woman was in His daily life and He connected with her. They could connect because they were both thirsty. Jesus simply spoke to her. We can do the same.
- Learn and engage. Two very powerful tools. If we are focused on others we will be in a position to learn about and from them. If we take a humble position we come to others with a blank slate. We don’t presume we know; we presume we don’t know. We look at this new person and start to dig into who they are. If we are humble we will presume that this person can teach us something. Help us grow. We will ask them prodding questions to learn about them. We will observe and listen for meaning and be slow to respond. We will listen for what is important to them and respond by discussing whatever that is. Now this could get tricky at first.
I did a pregnancy test on a woman once who was clearly high on drugs. Her boyfriend was there to physically help her get through the appointment. This woman was no different than the woman at the well. She was in need and I had the very thing to meet her need. I could connect with her because I am a sinner saved by grace. I was once a slave to my sin and though I have never been high on drugs at a local nonprofit I have had my share of experiences using substances beyond moderation. I got it. I simply talked with her and provided her a service.
Learning about others can be difficult because we may learn about a lot of things that scare us, or that are offensive to our Christian walk. We must remember how offensive we were as unbelievers. We must remember the grace that we have been shown and now live under. If we truly want to bring hope to the world we have to get used to some things and hearing about lifestyles that might shock us is one of them. Not only must we hear we must engage. Engaging with others is a sign that we do love our neighbor.
My favorite clients were always the ones who were the most offensive. I appreciated their honesty. They would share their stories of prostitution, drugs, abuse, rape, homelessness, anger, hatred, and deceit. Hurting and lost people have little reason to hide. Religious proper people do. They are the ones that hide what really goes on and are more difficult to engage with on a honest level, but both types of people need our ministry. They need hope in a hurting world. They need what we can bring—Jesus Christ.
The day that you were saved you were equipped to do a job. You have everything you need to help others. If you don’t have the material resources to help then you can find an organization, or church that does, but this doesn’t negate your responsibility to love others. I know getting into the meat of people’s lives is a messy business, but it is also the most beautiful business we can be in. Spend a few moments with the person God has placed in your life today and you will be blessed beyond measure. I have always wondered if God asks us to minister to others for our sake as much as theirs.
Those right in front of him.