As the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays near, our little ministry minds start churning, don’t they? And benevolence is usually at the top of the list.
No doubt we want to take these opportunities to bless and minister to others in the best of ways. So, how can we do this without making the recipient of our blessings feel like a project? This is an ongoing evaluation I make when considering outreach initiatives.
Last year, we tried something new at my church – we hosted Thanksgiving meals for those who may have not otherwise had one. We had plenty of delicious food and a gazillion volunteers, but it felt like all “The Have’s” were standing around watching the “The Have Nots” eat. But hey, we were new at this, and our hearts were pure.
Still, it became painstakingly clear to me that we had project-ified our guests.
In case you are looking for an alternative to what I described above, follow these steps for one way we can serve and love others without making them feel like a project.
- Locate a grocer who will be open on Thanksgiving Day and who serves Thanksgiving meals.
- Ascertain the cost to feed a family of 4 to 6, and take donations from individual church members and small groups. (One family meal may cost around $50).
- Create vouchers for the recipients to use when they pick up their meals on Thanksgiving.
- Depending on how many dinners are paid for, select a local elementary school and ask their faculty to give the vouchers to truly impoverished families.
- Provide literature about Jesus and your church to the grocer to attach to the meals.
Come Thanksgiving, families take their vouchers to the grocer and receive a nice, complementary Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings that can be enjoyed in the privacy of their own home with dignity.
There are so many things I love about this project:
- Thanksgiving is a busy time and a simple donation lets others do the work.
- It doesn’t require the school to “promote religious activity”, which may be necessary if the ACLU has ever visited your school system. The vouchers are given directly to parents, not children. The literature is handed out by the grocer, not the school.
- It’s all anonymous; the family can pick up their food without feeling like a spectacle.
- Kids and families get fed.
- It is super easy to coordinate.
We’ve had recipients call our church and ask why we did this for total strangers. Then we get to tell them more about the love of Jesus. It’s a win-win!
What ideas do you have? Leave a comment and share some other creative ways to minister at Thanksgiving!