By Lori Hatcher, Crosswalk.com
One of the first lessons I learned as a new believer was about the privilege and responsibility Christians have to support local churches. Because God has chosen to use the church, the body of Christ, for evangelism, teaching, training, ministry, and benevolence, it’s crucial that we invest first and foremost in the church.
But what about giving above and beyond our commitment to the local church? Perhaps God has blessed you with a surplus or a desire to sacrifice your time, talent, or treasure. How can you invest in God’s kingdom? Where should you give?
Here are 10 suggestions:
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1. Support a missionary.
Some serving on the mission field are supported by denominational mission boards, but others must raise their own support. Many missionaries are under-supported and lack the necessary funds to minister as effectively as they could.
During my family’s history we’ve donated to missionaries working in China, Thailand, Japan, Kenya, Romania, South Korea, Lesotho, Spain, Mexico, Amsterdam, and Afghanistan. Through prayer and financial gifts, we’ve helped spread the gospel to every continent except Australia and Antarctica (so far). One of our dearest hopes is that we’ll meet people in heaven who came to Christ through the missionaries we supported. Giving to missions and missionaries is an excellent way to invest in God’s kingdom.
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2. Disciple a new believer.
The Christian life is challenging, especially for first-generation believers. Many teens and young adults who didn’t grow up in Christian homes lack the example of a godly father or mother. They’ve made decisions for Christ and want to grow in their faith, but they need someone to model what authentic faith looks like.
When my husband, David, made a decision for Christ at age 17, he was a high-risk believer. Charlie and Rhonda, a couple from his church, recognized his potential (and the life circumstances he had working against him). They took him on as a special project.
Every Tuesday night Rhonda would cook dinner, and Charlie would share a Bible lesson. They worked through discipleship lessons and studied the basics of the faith. By the time David graduated from high school, he was better equipped to live the Christian life.
Now that we’re the “seasoned saints,” we enjoy paying it forward by investing in young couples. We share meals, talk about challenges and life issues, and pray together.
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3. Participate in disaster relief.
Natural disasters, political uprisings, and economic challenges can impoverish an area or an entire country. One of the best ways to respond to the catastrophic needs of others is to donate time and/or money to reputable relief organizations. Samaritan’s Purse is one of my favorites.
“Samaritan’s Purse was the first relief organization on the ground after the hurricane,” a missionary friend serving in Haiti said. “They were organized, compassionate, and efficient. Best of all, they shared the gospel with those whose lives had been devastated by the storm.”
Before you donate or volunteer, however, be sure the organization you’re considering has a stellar rating for financial stewardship. The website Charity Navigator, for example, ranked Samaritan’s Purse sixth in a list of ten best charities in the world.
What if you can’t afford to give? Why not go? Lisa Gillam knows what a blessing disaster relief volunteers can be. Her home was devastated by The Thousand Year Flood that ravaged her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. In the wake of the flooding, volunteers helped remove the damaged parts of her house and restore it to pre-flood condition.
Two years later, when Hurricane Harvey destroyed homes in Texas, she knew what she had to do—go. In addition to providing the physical help necessary to help victims rebuild, she had the joy of sharing the spiritual comfort she’d received two years earlier. Since then she’s had the privilege of leading several flood victims to faith in Christ.
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4. Help send a child or teen to a youth retreat or Christian camp.
Studies have shown the life-changing effects of outreach programs and Christian summer camp. “A substantial majority of the people who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching their 18th birthday,” says the article “Evangelism Is Most Effective among Young Kids.” Based on a study by The Barna Group, the survey also revealed that “young people respond more positively to different outreach influences than do people who embrace Christ later in life.”
For many youth, Christian camp is an opportunity to unplug from the world (and their devices), focus on spiritual things, and ponder their relationship with Christ. Many full-time ministers and missionaries say that they made the decision to serve God at a summer camp or retreat.
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5. Cuddle a baby.
“A recent study found that human touch plays a major role in the progression of infant neurodevelopmental function. Another showed that distressed infants who received less physical contact while in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) had slower brain maturation.” In light of this, many hospitals, including Penn Medicine’s Chester County Hospital, have set up programs that pair trained volunteer cuddlers with at-risk premature babies. In the simplest sense, programs like these give caring, compassionate people a way to minister to “the least of these” Jesus referred to in Matthew 25:40.
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6. Sponsor a Compassion International child.
Compassion International is a Christian child development organization dedicated to releasing children from poverty. They do this by partnering a donor with a needy child. For $38 a month, Compassion International provides, among other things: the opportunity to hear the gospel and learn about Jesus; regular Christian training; educational opportunities and help; health care, hygiene training and supplementary food if necessary; a caring and safe Christian environment to grow in self-confidence and social skills; personal attention, guidance, and love.
One friend of mine, after hearing about the need for child sponsors at a Compassion International event, felt the Lord tugging at her heart. “At first I didn’t think I could afford it,” she said. “But then I realized that if I gave up Starbucks, I could easily sponsor a child. I feel great knowing that my money is being used to change a child’s life.”
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7. Make care packages for the homeless.
Anyone who’s ever ridden with me knows I keep a box of peanut butter cracker packs tucked under my front seat at all times. It never stays there for long. I began this practice when I noticed more and more people standing on street corners holding signs that said, Hungry. Please Help.
I knew it wasn’t wise to give them money, but I felt uncomfortable not responding to someone who might be legitimately hungry. That’s when I hit upon the idea of handing out boxes of peanut butter crackers. They’re non-perishable, nutritional, and easy to store.
A friend of mine has expanded on my idea. She keeps several Ziploc bags in the back seat of her car. Each bag contains an energy bar, a pair of socks, a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste, and a Gideon pocket New Testament. Whenever she sees a homeless person on the side of the road, she hands them a care package and prays for them.
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8. Give to or volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center.
How often do you attend a baby shower? Depending on your stage of life, it could be often. My friend Jill prepares for these happy occasions in a special way. Every time she shops for a gift or writes a check to welcome a friend or family member’s new baby into the world, she gives an identical gift to help a crisis pregnancy baby. On the first new mother’s card, she writes, “God bless you as you welcome your new little one into the world. An identical gift has been given to ______ Crisis Pregnancy Center in your baby’s name. May God bless both babies with a happy, healthy, God-honoring life.”
Jill also volunteers at the center answering phones, keeping the donation room organized, and praying for the mothers and fathers who walk through the door. Of all the ways she invests in the kingdom, she says this is her favorite. “Children have a special place in Jesus’ heart,” she said, “so they have a special place in mine, too.”
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9. Use your talents to bless the needy.
Frank is a hair stylist. Monday through Friday from 10-7 he serves well-to-do clients in his downtown salon. On Wednesdays, however, he closes early. He loads his swivel stool, cape, and scissor set into his car and drives to a nearby park, where he serves his “most important clients.” While other volunteers from his church serve fried chicken and potato salad, Frank gives homeless men haircuts and beard trims. “When a man looks better,” Frank says, “he acts better. Using my talent to minister to someone else is my way of thanking God for the way he’s blessed me.”
Another lady on the ministry team scours thrift stores for gently-used socks and underwear to give to the men and women who come to the meal. Yet another brings Christian books she’s collected from church members. One week a local youth group provided manicures for the women. “I’ve never been pampered like this before,” one woman exclaimed, examining her neatly-trimmed, hot pink nails.
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10. Buy books for a Christian school.
Many Christian schools lack funding to maintain a library of good-quality Christian reading material. The need, however, often gets buried under more obvious and urgent shortfalls. When my husband and I received a request to help stock a Christian school library in Spain, we jumped at the chance. Scrolling through the list of wished-for titles, I spotted many of my grandchildren’s favorites.
It was fun to know that because of our donation, children half a world away would soon be reading the same good books we enjoy. If this idea appeals to you, be sure to check with the school to see which titles they need. You’d hate to waste money buying books they already own.
As you can tell from this list, there are as many ways to invest in God’s kingdom as there are people and ministries. If you feel God calling you to give of your time, talent, and treasure, begin with your local church. When the needs are met there, ask God to show you where else he wants to use you. Then watch and listen. He’ll show you exactly where you need to give.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Lori Hatcher is a blogger, inspirational speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. She’s also Gigi to three tiny humans. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).
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