7 ways your church can start a compassion ministry

Members of Bowdon Baptist Church in the Carrollton Baptist Association in Georgia supported and hosted several Appalachian Regional Ministry Christmas Backpack distribution parties and locations throughout Appalachia. Churches in the association contributed 500 backpacks for the effort, which saw 30,300 backpacks distributed before Christmas. (Courtesy/Gary Snyder)When a church initiates a compassion ministry, a door can be opened in a community where people witness Jesus' character through actions and hear about His gift of salvation, some for the first time, say Southern Baptist ministry leaders.

The North American Mission Board's Send Relief compassion ministry strategy encourages churches to expand their community engagement while delivering the Gospel.

"As Southern Baptists we are good at making the call to missions around the world and across our continent, but we also need to be careful not to miss the needs right in the shadow of our own steeple," said NAMB President Kevin Ezell.

Like thousands of other Southern Baptist churches, Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, engages in missions holistically. The church invests in connecting with unreached people groups through the International Mission Board and is involved in church planting locally and across North America. The church also engages in a full range of Send Relief ministry, including everything from grief and divorce care to foster care, adoption and crisis pregnancy support.

"One of our greatest traits as a church family is that we care for and support each other during times of trouble and hardship," said Develop Ministry Coordinator Tony Puckett. "We have support ministries for the entire family, from pre-K through adulthood, to aid those who are struggling. As a church, we are firmly committed to helping others get back to a place where they can chase their purpose with passion and confidence."

Following are seven ways NAMB that every church, regardless of size or budget, can embrace Send Relief and meet physical needs and share Jesus' love to all through compassion ministries:

1. Look inside your church.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what the needs of fellow church attendees are? Start asking around and find what needs can be met inside your church—be it a clothing drive, a paid dental trip or specific prayer. Seeing the needs of those nearby will open your eyes to the broader needs of the community.

2. Plan around holidays.

Think ahead toward Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. Compassion ministries are greatly appreciated year-round, but it's never too early to plan an outreach around the holidays when research shows people feel the most alone, overwhelmed or in need. Ask fellow church members to plan a compassion ministries event for a holiday and use it as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with others.

3. Team up with another church.

The Bible notes that two are better than one. What better way to further a person's reach in the community than by working with another church? That means more volunteers, more equipment to pull off the event and a larger audience to broadcast God's message of hope.

4. Make calls.

Make a few calls to local shelters and nonprofits in the community that could use church support and involvement. Ask church leaders and the congregation to organize a group to serve on projects in the community that bring hope to those who need it. Some compassion ministry initiatives include medical and dental services, car maintenance for single moms, yard work for senior citizens or meeting another specific community need.

5. Offer a relationship.

The most loving thing people can do is offer a relationship with a loving God. But it starts by offering up a relationship with ourselves first, and living out that relationship as a godly example. If someone is looking for a friend, be that friend. Tell them about Jesus. Ask them to coffee and bring up His name. Listen to someone's problems and pray over them, in private and with them if he or she is willing. With this new budding friendship, God can do great things!

6. Visit the sick.

This, first, requires listening. When people offer up prayer requests on the behalf of others, stop and listen. Then, if you're able, make a trip to visit whoever is sick or hurting. Compassion ministry is often about meeting the needs of others in creative ways, including sharing time and attention.

7. Make, bake and take.

Food is definitely a part of compassion ministries. It is a great expression of love and caring and can warm the soul. Offer expecting parents a meal (better yet, organize a meal train online) or bake a surprise cake for a friend. Compassion ministry is about doing, rather than saying. Take a trip to see someone you haven't seen in a while or visit a children's ward in the hospital.

Learn how your church can become more involved in compassion ministries. Visit namb.net/SendRelief.

Josie Rabbitt writes for the North American Mission Board.

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