At Living Waters, we have only provided financial help one time to a family. Once. Only once. Simply put, we do not provide financial help to anyone as a church. There are a couple of reasons why we do this and I will share them later.
My secretary had someone come by earlier this year to our offices and share with her a terrible sad story about her and her kids. She simply asked for $20. My secretary replied no. The mother with her children left and guilt set in terribly upon her. She actually ran after the mother and gave her $20. That was a Tuesday. Later that Saturday, she was in the braiding shop where she is also employed. Who walks in? The same mother who a few days earlier needed $20 was coming in to get her $180 braid.
In my almost 20 years in ministry, I have seen families and individuals (including some in leadership) use the church for financial assistance. I have seen these same individuals or families leave the church immediately following the assistance. I have always consoled myself that it was from some shame of knowing every week that they faced individuals who at one time had to knowledgable of their financial situation. Now that was a time in the early 2000's when our country's economic condition was stronger and more vibrant.
Lately as a church, we have estimated that 50% of our calls to our ministry are a result of individuals and families needing financial assistance. (40% are sales calls) Sadly, our answer is no. There are a couple of reasons why and they are as followed:
1. We don't have a tried and true system to know that those who need assistance are legitimate.
2. We have seen too many con artist and vagabonds who use the church for their personal financial advancement. The church is not a bank. Yet, the church has been used by many scammers to promote their financial agenda - no matter if it was to get alcohol at the local package store. I would hate the add up all of the amount of money the church gives throughout the year to those who have ill intent. I think it would place us in a state of shock.
3. For regular attenders and members, a worship experience is simply better when you don't owe the church any money. Yes, I know churches usually give the money with not intent of return but when you are the receiver, there is a feeling like you owe the church or God will be upset with you.
4. We must encourage believers to not rely on the people of God but on the God of the people. Believers must be encouraged to
stretch their faith. I grew up on graduation day of college. That day, my father took me to a local clothing store and loaded me up on clothes. He then turned to me and said that was it. No more financial help. Never again have I ever turned to him for financial help. Spiritually, I also grew up that day. I had to learn to turn to my heavenly Father instead of my earthly father for help. Believers need an opportunity to do the same.
5. We are called to be good stewards over our finances - not fools. We should be protective over the funds of our church as we do over our families and ministries. Like I stated in the first part, we don't have a tried and true system.
6. Across the board, this is our policy. If you assist one, you must assist all. Simple as that.
7. We never forbid anyone from financially blessing others. Karen and I financially bless individuals and families all the time and we love it! Yet, we express much wisdom in this matter and that is left up to each individual. It releases the church from any responsibility. In addition, the policy also frees up many who feel guilty when they can't! Our policy is the Bible of our church when it comes to financial assistance.
I hope this helps pastor, lay leaders, and others who sometimes feel guilty or feel that it is just the churches job to financially assist. I know this may not work with some churches. I know this may be hard for others. This is what helps us keep strong boundaries between our community and our church as well as our church and those who call Living Waters home.