If you are physically attractive, have a comfortable amount of income and your family has something to offer in the area of time and talent, you will find a warm welcome at most churches. I am thinking of a church right now where hundreds of well-dressed, attractive and successful people gather every Sunday. It is like most others of its type across the country. If you stood and watched after church, you would never dream that anyone could possibly feel left out.
But if you don’t have a picture-perfect life, or if you have a life-altering problem, or if you are a single parent with no money, the situation can be very different. At many churches, people fall through the cracks. They don’t have nice clothes. They don’t cut a handsome or pretty figure. They have no talents to share. They are needy and hurting, and they don’t know where to turn.
Maybe it has always been this way. Maybe that’s why Christ himself spoke of the pharisees who would give the best seats to the well-dressed and the wealthy and put the poor at the back. Some Christian churches today are no different. Because of this, hurting people leave such churches, limping into the night without a backwards glance.
Needy people take time. They need help. They need money or housing. Sometimes they need intensive counseling for a difficult and complex situation in their lives. They don’t burnish a church’s image. They might even be embarrassing to a church in some way.
I know the feeling of being a single parent with a seemingly endless life of drama. It is the worst feeling in the world. Late night calls for counsel, the feeling of never belonging anywhere because you’re alone with two children, have no money, and so forth. How rare and wonderful it is when someone reaches out in understanding to help.
If you have ever felt what it is to fall through the cracks, to be deeply lonely and to feel left out in a church, you will know what it means to have a hand of friendship stretched out to you. Maybe because I do know, the Lord occasionally sends someone like that in my direction. I have not always succeeded in being a blessing to those people. Maybe other times I have been. I am more convinced than ever that such a ministry is important to the heart of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd doesn’t walk away from a wayward or injured sheep. He tenderly cares for it. We should do the same.
It isn’t always big things that help someone. One couple asked me and my little boys over for dinner after church once, and my boys went swimming in their pool. It was so nice to feel a part of something. Another woman I knew called one night when I was at my lowest ebb. Her call came through at a moment when I was so depressed I was having extremely dark thoughts. Her name was Jane, and she came and picked me up for the night. My boys were gone for the weekend, and she just sat and talked to me. I’ll never forget it.
If you ever see someone who has needs in your church, consider what you might do or say to let that person know that you care. As Christians, we are showing Christ forth more than at any other time when we reach out to them. When we do so, we should do so in humility, realizing that we some day may need just such love. Sometimes we are on the giving end, and sometimes we are at the receiving end in life.
If you know there is a financial need, an anonymous gift is a great way to go. It doesn’t embarrass the recipient or create any discomfort for anyone. Sometimes, a gift of your time or having coffee and just listening is a help. An offer of babysitting is huge for a single parent who may not get a chance to have a break.
Elderly church members very often fall through the cracks. My husband recently spent time in the home of an 80-something blind woman. She had lost her husband and her son. Tom came away saying that he was the one who was blessed during the visit as the woman talked to him about her life and how God had met every one of her needs. Sadly, many large churches don’t see elderly people as worth visiting anymore. My mother-in-law was one of those people. She commented that the church never forgot to send out fundraising appeals, but the days of visits to older members had ceased.
There is someone in your life that you can encourage. If you don’t feel like you have a ministry right now, the Lord may have just one person that can use the love of Christ shown through your life. Ask the Lord, and He will show you who it is.