Best Practices for Helping People in Need

We love to serve. Our hearts hurt for people who are hungry or homeless or struggling. We recognize how blessed we are, and we want to use those blessings to help those less fortunate. We take Jesus seriously when he said of the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

But sometimes we wonder when helping really helps. It’s one thing to provide dinner for someone recovering from surgery. it’s another to feed an able-bodied homeless man. Is our helping creating dependency?

To truly help people in need, we learn from those who’ve studied what truly is helpful and what isn’t. The practices listed here, which guide ministry at St. Peter, are gleaned from the recommended resources below.

  • We acknowledge we are all poor in different ways.

  • We aim to build relationships with people. Working with people, rather than doing things for people, is more effective in the long run. It also takes more time and is more challenging. 

  • We don’t do for people what they can do for themselves.

  • When we do short term ministry, we partner with people doing long term, relational ministry.

  • When serving people in other communities, we come only at their invitation. We respect their local leaders. We recognize they may have different cultural norms and we navigate them humbly.

 Especially as we plant new ministries in the communities around us, we will serve in ways that are long term, relational and experiential. We build relationships first, we look to local leaders to identify needs, and we address those needs with resources from both sides.  

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