As a church leader at a small church, you know firsthand the importance of caring for those in need within your congregation and community. That's why you need to make a Benevolence Fund a crucial part of your ministry strategy. These funds serve as a lifeline for individuals and families facing financial hardships or crises, providing immediate assistance and support.
In this guide, we'll explore the world of benevolence funds, offering you practical insights and essential information. From understanding the purpose of benevolence funds to establishing and managing them with care, this guide will equip you to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who need it most. Let's dive in and discover the transformative power of benevolence within your church community!
Merriam-Webster's definition of benevolence is, "disposition to do good; an act of kindness; a generous gift." We could define Benevolence Fund similarly as "a church collectively acting with a disposition to do good by collecting a generous gift for someone in need."
A Benevolence Fund is used by a church for the purpose of giving to someone in great need in their community. Tragedy can strike at any moment for someone in your town or city. A Benevolence Fund provides the church with the resources to come through and offer a financial blessing in the face of that tragedy.
There are numerous passages throughout the Bible exhorting us to care for the needy. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus implicitly shares the call to give food to the hungry, a drink to the thirsty, invite the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner. In Deuteronomy 15:7-11, God commands the Israelites to be "openhanded" and "freely lend" to the poor and needy among them and to "give generously". The prophet Isaiah declared God's desire for us to provide food for the hungry and shelter for the poor wanderer. The early church in Acts famously gave their possessions to anyone in need, enjoying the favor of the people and growing the church.
The Bible is clear in our call to care for those in need. A Benevolence Fund is the best way to steward your resources and collect donations from members so that your church can love those in need.
There is so much overlap between the words "benevolence" and "charity" that it's easy to use them interchangeably. But there is still an important distinction between the two. Benevolence is support for an individual or family in need. A charity provides public benefit and supports particular people groups. So even though a charity may provide assistance to an individual, that individual is part of a group that the organization regularly serves more broadly.
A benevolence program is more personalized than charity work. When a family's home burns down in your neighborhood, a church member's sibling gets a terrible diagnosis, or some other disaster befalls someone in your surrounding area, your church can reach into that difficult time and offer immediate support. It's a powerful way to bless someone in need and reflect God's love for those who are suffering.
Creating and managing a Benevolence Fund requires more than just opening your church's accounting spreadsheet and adding "Benevolence Fund" to the list of donation options. In order for members to make tax-deductible donations, there are a few guidelines your church needs to follow.
Read below for the best way to steward your Benevolence Fund.
Before you set up and allocate money into a fund, you must create a written benevolence policy around how to disburse funds. Not having a written policy leaves your benevolence ministry vulnerable to abuse and makes it harder for your church to know how to proceed with giving aid. Faith Community Church has a great example you can use.
Then establish a Benevolence Committee for the purpose of evaluating applications and deciding how to distribute the funds. These donations should NOT be handled by one individual without accountability or oversight.
Funding is accomplished through contributions from your donors. Note: Members canNOT designate who will receive the donation. It has to be distributed by the church without direction from the members. If a member specifies that they want the money to go toward a specific recipient, the donation will NOT be tax deductible. The IRS considers such donations as a gift directly from one individual to another, and pass-through donations are not tax-deductible. The church must be in full control of the distribution of the funds for donations to the Benevolence Fund to be tax-deductible.
Giving out of the benevolence fund must be agreed upon by the committee and there must be a written record of the transaction. It's best to do this within the church accounting software you are using, like the one you get with a ChurchTrac Plus account.
The first step is to have a document an applicant fills out to receive aid. Click here for a sample Benevolence Request form you can use at your church. Add that form to your website and app. It's also a good idea to have printed copies available at your church.
It is then up to the committee to approve the urgency and legitimacy of the need as well as the amount of the benevolence offering.
Privacy and confidentiality are absolutely essential to an effective benevolence ministry. Recipients are facing difficult times. Many will prefer to keep their circumstances private.
Only appoint trusted and mature individuals to the Benevolence Committee. It may be worthwhile to consider requiring the committee members to sign an NDA.
In 2021, Valley Real Life Church raised $300,000 and used it to pay off high medical bills for many people in the Spokane Valley, Washington area. The result? Their donation forgave a whopping $30,000,000 in medical debt. Praise God!
Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church shares an annual report of their benevolence donations. In 2020, they not only gave 1,789 families a total of 229,911 pounds of groceries from their food pantry, but they also donated an additional $58,829 to those families. That's a powerful testimony of God's love in action!
Though your church's benevolence will go a long way to help someone, tragedies often create tremendous need. The beneficiary of your love will still need more aid after your donation. For instance, they may need financial counseling, grief therapy, or help finding a new job.
Of course, inviting them to your church so that you can continue to love them is an obvious step. But it's also worth expanding your vision of how your church can help people in their time of need.
Check what services your local government and other non-profits in your area offer. This research will take time, but your church will become capable of connecting people in need with a rich network of aid. Your church could be a central hub for everything someone needs during difficult times. What an incredible way to show the power of God's love!
Like everything else you try to instill in your members, helping your church become more benevolent requires repetitive messaging, celebrating when members donate, as well as celebrating the stories of transformation created by your church's benevolence ministry.
For a book-length treatment of creating a culture of benevolence in practical and effective ways, check out the book Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence by Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert. It's an excellent resource for helping you manage the benevolence ministry of your church and increase the positive impact your church has on your surrounding community.
A Benevolence Fund takes care and consideration to properly steward. But your church will sow a massive harvest as a result!
Start a Benevolence Fund today and watch as God blesses your church with more opportunities than ever to share the Gospel and love the people in your community in powerful ways.