Here are 5 Things Churches can do for the Marginalized or Struggling in their church body! And better yet, these require little to no physical contact but go A LONG WAY in making people feel seen and cared for!
Even when things go “back to normal” whatever that may involve, you can bet that many of those who fit into these groups of people below won’t get to go back to normal as quickly… or maybe haven’t ever had a normal like most of us know it to be. This is where the Church can SHINE and be a haven of rest and belonging. If we only make it a priority.
It might take a little coordinating, a little money, and a few emails, but once you get these ideas rolling, you’ll be surprised how willing your people will be to bless and encourage those who need it most right now.
Amazon Wishlist for Families
This will be focusing on families with special needs children, elderly/shut-ins, those who are out of work right now, or living paycheck to paycheck.
Have each staff/leader connect with a family or two (and these families can be singles as well) within the church, and ask them to set up a public Amazon Wish List of things their family/kids/household needs/wants… encourage them not to be shy in adding things they are needing and wanting! Then send those lists out to the church or in a newsletter.
You will be so surprised how much joy your people will find in ordering these things for families within their own church community! Within days each family will have huge needs delivered right to their doorsteps with notes of encouragement too.
*After a certain amount of time have the church office go through and order the rest of the list using benevolence/crisis funding.
Just to show you an example: Here is our family Amazon wish list. It’s something we can add things to and request needs from time to time (like when every kids shoes seem to fall apart at the same time!) as well as serve as a list friends and family can use when they want to encourage and bless our family.
Weekly Flower Delivery
-Order flower vases in bulk cases: Dollar Tree’s website has all kinds for only $1 each!
-Have someone creative on church staff design some simple tags/cards.
-Ask for 5-6 individuals to commit to buying a bouquet or two of flowers once a week at the grocery store for 8-12 weeks (you probably know offhand who would love doing something like this). Trader Joe’s is a very inexpensive place to get flowers.
-Have them grab a case of vases, and then arrange a few flower arrangements from the bouquets.
-They can then deliver them to the front doors of homes in their church community.
Each week you could focus on a different group of people: *Elderly, *Those Out of Work *Disabled, *First Responders or Medical Professionals, *Leaders/Council, *Teachers and Social Workers, * Singles/those living alone.
Flowers go A LONG way in making people feel seen and cared for. And it’s A LOT of fun delivering vases of joy to people! (and can be done in a matter of 1-3 hours) This can be a load of fun with kids or done with a close friend.
The Ministry of Meals
If there are foster/adoptive/large families in your church family (please tell me there are), have each small group or sunday school class adopt one and commit to ordering a meal once a week or twice a month. This can be as simple as pizza, Mexican taco platters, really any restaurant that has online or to-go ordering! Bonus points if you are supporting a local business or one close to your church.
I can say from personal experience that you have no idea just HOW much this can bless a family and provide much-needed respite in a time where we many are hanging by a thread during this 24/7 togetherness and lack of services that generally offer relief.
Meal trains shouldn’t just be for new babies and surgeries. They can be sources of church presence for those families who deal with a lot of physically and emotionally draining family life. #theministryofmeals
Prison and Probation Fees
Ask your Church body if anyone in their family, neighborhood, workplace, or close circles who are incarcerated or on parole during this time. Do you have anyone in your church who is incarcerated or on probation? Have the church offer to help pay daily prison fees, pay in advance for daily prison fees, or put money on their phone cards. These fees can be small but add up quickly and prevent those in prison from connecting with family members.
If your church doesn’t have anyone connected to those whose lives are impacted by the prison system, reach out to another church or non-profit near you and ask if they have similar prison/parole related needs. Then, ask yourself or as a staff, why you aren’t in proximity to those who are incarcerated? And what missional efforts your church can make in the future to remedy that?
Messages from Missionaries
Use part of your online presence on Sundays as a way to highlight and communicate with your Missionaries. If anyone gets this way of life we have been thrown into, the struggles of isolation, loneliness, missing their church gatherings, weariness, and fears of many unknowns, it’s your missionaries! They also have learned to rock the ability to communicate and connect through tools on the internet.
Have your missionaries talk about their lives and share about their day to day where they serve. This might help your congregation remember that this hard, unusual time for us can be a normal reality for those living outside of the everyday comforts in the United States.
This also reminds your people that our giving still goes to missionaries’ needs year-round, not just during missionary focus seasons. (You can also do this for local and national ministries your church budget supports.)
We need those with great needs!
If these suggestions feel out of reach for your church body, if it’s because you don’t know or have any people who fit into these groups, consider taking a long hard look at if your church is a welcoming and safe place for those who are struggling or marginalized. It may be just due to a lack of information and data, not knowing if those in your church fit into these groups or have these kinds of needs.
Or, if you’ll allow me to meddle a bit, it can also be because of an overextension of time and effort spent on things like Sunday services and ongoing church discipleship programs. Those are part of the church’s mission but should never cause the needs of the marginalized to be overshadowed or left unmet.
We have to run towards these needs within our church family if we are calling ourselves the body of Christ. I get that gatherings feel like a huge need for many of us… they can be. But it’s worth at least listening to someone who lives just above the poverty line, knows about life with special needs children, and who has friends and family whose lives are impacted by the justice system. When needs are overwhelming and severe and exist at the most base level, Sundays can (not always) make us feel more alone because once we leave the service, we wonder if we are truly seen and known the rest of the week.
As Church leaders, please do the work of pursuing the marginalized within your body. As I’ve written before… it’s not Optional. The body needs families and individuals with differing levels of needs. Jesus knew that Christians would need a new kind of family, one that would look different from the world. Meeting the needs of the outcast and marginalized is one of the primary functions of the Church.
But for those who are the ones in need, it can be exhausting to just live our lives, much less feel like we are doing the work to make our needs known. And it comes with the risk of the church not stepping up to meet those needs when we know the resources within the body of believers are abundant and ready to be spent with great joy and connection!!
Please know that my hearts desire is to encourage, inspire, challenge and equip the body of Christ to press in towards those who often go overlooked and unintentionally pushed aside. The Church NEEDS those who have differing needs and abilities and challenges. May we not miss these incredible opportunities that lay before us. For there is great joy to be found in making sure those on the margins feel drawn in towards belonging, safety and connection with their brothers and sisters in Christ.