Earlier this year, the staff read through the book, “When Helping Hurts”. Jonathan suggested this book as an answer to the question, “What do we do next with our friends from Feeding the Hungry lunches?” The book is a really good one, sometimes discouraging to read as we evaluate our failure and lack of progress, but it also encouraged us to reevaluate all the ways we could improve our benevolence ministry.
I thought a lot about two specific areas:
- Food Hampers. We were handing out food hampers at an alarming rate. There was no relationship with our “clients” and no accountability on their part. For all we knew, we were sending four hampers to one home at a time. We changed our approach at the end of May and we feel much better about being able to actually help people with a food hamper when they are in real need. We have a format that encourages more conversation and relationship than before.
- Our Christmas Hamper Ministry. We always got a great response from our congregation, but when we have delivered to homes the last couple of years, the response has seemed quite flat. It seemed like most people didn’t want to engage with us in relationship, maybe they were embarrassed to be helped out in that way or it just made them so uncomfortable that they didn’t know how to respond. At any rate, it was hard to develop a relationship with them. The other barrier to the problem is that some of these people were being helped through another local ministry or school and it was really hard to tell if that was the best approach for us in terms of financial resources.
The book, “When Helping Hurts” shed some light on the Christmas Hamper issue as other churches and groups had experienced a similar response to their desire to help. One reason they discovered for the flat response and reluctance to engage in relationship is that the people felt disempowered by “rich people” dropping off gifts to their house. They felt devalued when their children saw them being helped by strangers. This made sense to me so I wanted to research other ways to help.
I came across the idea of providing Stocking Stuffers (public name: Kids’ Christmas Bags) to families in need. I approached our contact at Marlborough Elementary and explained the reasoning behind the change in our approach and she was very enthusiastic and on board. She has found us 5 families to help. We have one family from Rundle Elementary and one from Hope Mission. There is another anonymous family we help which brings our total to 8 families and 19 children! The next question was, How can we further help these families? We decided to host Christmas in Marlborough and provide a fun environment for the families to come and for the parents to discreetly pick up their gifts. The children need to never know that we provided the gifts and the parents keep their “hero” status in the eyes of their children.
A couple of days after the idea had been taking root for Christmas in Marlborough a friend asked me, “Can you find me a family to help this Christmas? I’m sure you have connections.” I said, “We aren’t necessarily helping families like we used to, but we are having this party, why don’t you come over and help with the photo booth and get to know some people and see who God will lead you to help? It could be a bit like “Humans of New York!”
That was the moment that the idea was planted for @storiesofmarlborough and grew at an alarming rate. I’ve actually scaled back my initial thoughts to the “manageable format” we have today. But I am very content to allow God to grow both us and this ministry and be the pillar of fire before us as we move forward. In fact, the planning and response from our congregation seems to just be a tidal wave that we are being carried along on. I can’t remember an event that I have been a part of that seemed to be led by God so dominantly. I have only shoulder tapped 2-3 people, and we now have at least 66 people volunteering to help on Saturday, December 16th for Christmas in Marlborough. We have people praying that we will have 1000+ in attendance. God is certainly leading us as we wrap up our season of prayer with this outreach to His people. I’m thankful to be along for the ride with such an enthusiastic crowd. Thank you all and PRAISE TO GOD!
Visit www.calgarycofc.com/christmas for all the details for the day!