Encouraging Your Ladies To Become Salt and Light
By Deena Davis
God’s people have always been called upon to demonstrate their love by meeting the needs of others. The early Christians were instructed to contribute to the needs of the saints (see Romans 12:13) and to show hospitality to strangers (see Hebrews 13:2). The Church practiced this to such an extent that Luke was able to make this incredible observation of them: “there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:34).
A crucial function of small groups in the Church is to provide a vehicle through which Christians can demonstrate their love by meeting the needs of others. Small-group members who want to meet the needs of people in their community will embrace the philosophy of being on call to minister to those needs. They will see themselves as God’s resources to needy individuals.
As believers respond to their study of God’s Word they will give of themselves to meet someone else’s need. Groups can create a resource bank of professional expertise, trade skills, and financial resources.
Caring may be demonstrated in one or more of the following areas: ministering to someone with material needs, comforting someone who is suffering, or counseling someone with a spiritual problem. Here are some ways small groups can minister to others:
– Provide food to the cupboards of a needy single parent.
– Buy a round-trip airline ticket for a disabled person to visit an aging parent.
– Take over the responsibility for the care of small children while their mother is hospitalized and recovering from surgery.
– Invest time on a Saturday doing yard work and painting for a needy widow.
– Provide a car for a missionary during his furlough in the States.
You can be sure that the level of caring in the group has matured when the group members minister not only to each other, but to others outside the group. When a group member says to the group, “My neighbor has a need I think we could meet,” and the group responds with a desire to be of service, they are caring the way Jesus cares – with unconditional love.
Works of loving service to those outside the group demonstrate the love of Christ in winsome and attractive ways. “This genuine caring provides opportunities to share the good news of salvation as well.
The small group becomes salt and light when it has Christ-like influence and impact on its community.
On your own, read the following checklist and put a check mark next to ever way you’ve expressed care to another person in the past six months:
– Sending a card
– Doing manual labor
– Providing transportation
– Holding a hand
– Caring for a child
– Extending hospitality
– Preparing food
– Making a hospital visit
– Contributing financial help
– Providing nursing care
– Furnishing career assistance
– Writing a note
– Being present
– Providing a meal
– Offering prayer
– Giving a hug
– Listening actively
– Presenting a gift
– Making phone calls
– Shopping for food
– Visiting a home
– Giving a party
Next, complete the following sentence. “As a result of doing this exercise, I realize that I usually throw ropes to hurting people by.”
Now, as a group, discuss what you have discovered by doing this exercise.
In Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God not only prepares the works, He prepares us to do them.
Accountability-missions groups are more than week-to-week “check-ups” to make sure everyone is serving in some way.
An accountability-missions group is a small group of people who want to take seriously the claims of Jesus Christ upon their lives and want to be involved in daily life ministry.
“The focus of the group meeting is to help each other find ways to serve. Some of the questions group members ask each other are: “What is one activity or attitude I believe God wants me to do or have this week?” “What person(s) should I be serving?” “How should I serve?” “How much help will I need?”
In an accountability-missions group, members choose tasks individually through reflection and prayer with the support of the other members: a homemaker shares her desire for a ministry to her children’s neighborhood friends, a lawyer discusses his ministry to children involved in the juvenile court system, a couple speaks of their struggle with a handicapped child. Each person shares an area in which he or she feels called to serve God that week.
The following week each member reports how it went: failures, successes, sorrows, joys.
Forming an accountability-missions group provides support for Christian coworkers who desire to have a ministry at the office, too. Although each person may interpret God’s call somewhat differently, together they can pray, think, confront, and support each other as God’s people in that place.
Twenty Ways to Encourage a Brother or Sister in Christ
First Thessalonians 5:1-11 tells us that Christ died for us so that we can live together with Him. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up….”
It is crucial that we encourage our brothers and sisters in our small groups, where we live together with Him.” Here are some specific ways to do so:
– Write an encouraging letter (Paul to Timothy).
– Share how God has dealt with you in your life – your personal testimony of overcoming and growth (Paul’s testimony in Acts 22).
– Maintain loyalty in brotherly friendships, not withholding friendship when a brother stumbles or embarrasses you (Joseph and Mary, Paul and the Corinthians).
– Offer your supportive presence, even when you do not understand (the women at the cross).
– Share specific, helpful Scriptures (author of Hebrews to the Hebrew Christians).
– Be an example or model (Paul, as in 2 Corinthians 7:2; I Peter 5:3; 1 Timothy 4:12; Philippians 3:17).
– Affirm another person’s worth by doing kindness when he hurts (Jesus in Matthew 25: feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, clothe the naked).
– Show hospitality (entertain: Hebrews 13:2; I Peter 4:9).
– Compliment a brother on the progress he makes in the faith (I Thessalonians 1; 1 Peter 1:22).
– Absorb another person’s problems into yourself (pay his debts – Paul with Onesimus; the good Samaritan).
– Rejoice with another in his successes (Acts 5:41).
– Be a cheerleader (offer celebration when the situation looks dim- Paul and Silas in prison).
– Jump in and help someone else actually complete a job (John and Peter with Philip in Samaria).
– Be psychologically available and willing to listen (Paul corresponded with the Corinthians when they needed and asked for his help).
– Stand up lot a brother or sister, defending that person when others disparage him or her (Barnabas for Paul).
– Show a gentle, affectionate, concerned, sympathetic attitude (I Thessalonians 2:7).
– Dialogue, discuss, study together (Paul and the Jerusalem council),
– Give money, food, and so on (Corinthians and Macedonians to brethren in drought).
– Pray (Paul for the Romans).
– Review with a brother or sister the record of God’s involvement in our past and present so he or she can get the future into perspective (Paul to the Philippians, and on the shipwreck).
When It Can’t Be Fixed – Comfort for the Hurting
What do you say to someone who’s hurting, with no solution in sight? What comfort can you offer when no words seem sufficient? Some problems have no real solutions. Children are born with serious handicaps. Businesses fail. Incurable illnesses strike. Having had far more experience with insoluble problems than I would wish, I offer the following suggestions for giving comfort in “impossible” situations.
– Be available. Let your friend know you will be there, whenever needed, for as long as needed. Knowing that can itself he an enormous comfort,
– Listen. Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your whole posture. The gift you have to offer is more often a listening ear than a practical solution.
– Offer special, practical help. Can you accompany your friend to a meeting with the doctor, as moral support? Can you run an errand, mow a lawn, or baby-sit a child long enough to allow your friend a nap or time to cry? Ask what’s needed most.
– Organize support. Volunteer to coordinate people who will baby-sit, make meals, do laundry, do housework, and so forth.
– Inquire about finances. If this crisis results in lost wages, additional medical
bills, and other financial burdens. ask tactfully but directly if the family is going to be able to manage. If not, could the church pay a month’s rent? The phone bill? Cover car repairs? Send over several bags of groceries?
– Assist with red tape. The number of doctors, insurance companies, social organizations, and so on that one has to deal with in certain situations can be absolutely overwhelming. Could someone else call the doctor or insurance company and straighten ouy the bill? Offer to be a buffer between your friends and these bureaucracies.
– Include your friend in the normal activities of life. When a problem is long-term, you can’t just put life on hold till it’s over. Invite the children to a birthday party, movie, or dinner at McDonald’s. Have your friends over for a meal or arrange a quiet evening alone for husband and wife.
– Pray and let your friend know you are praying. Ask for prayer requests, too.
– Keep at it. Once support is offered in abundance in the first days following a crisis but slows to a trickle in the weeks, months, and years that follow, when discouragement and exhaustion may make support all the more necessary.
Hospitality to Go
Have you ever considered that meaningful hospitality doesn’t have to take place in the giver’s home? In fact, in certain situations, meeting on our friends’ turf may be more helpful than inviting them to yours. (Think about these ideas the next time you want to pack your hospitality to go:
– When a friend is convalescing, call and asks if you can share your lunch with him or her. Then load a picnic basket with a thermos of soup and some sandwiches or salad.
– If a family you know is going through an extended period of difficulty – maybe the wife is experiencing a rough pregnancy, or they have just brought an elderly parent into their home -consider doubling your recipes and freezing the extra meals whenever you can. Deliver them
regularly, making sure everything is in disposable containers and clearly mark with directions for heating and serving.
– When a family first brings foster children (or a new or adopted baby) into their home, they’re busy trying to get everyone used to a new routine, and may hesitate to go out very much. Ask if you can deliver a meal and meet their new family member. Take along a game for the kids, then stay awhile and play it with them.
– When someone you know is spending long hours at the hospital with a seriously ill loved one, take a couple of bag lunches when you visit. Your friend may appreciate a break from lonely trips to the hospital cafeteria.
– Just about anyone enjoys a picnic. Some sunny day, pack everything you’ll need for a picnic lunch, then invite someone to join you at the park. On a Sunday after church, this could be a great way to welcome the new family that has started coming to your church.
Mercy in a Minute
When I think of mercy, I think of Mother Teresa, who showed love to the neediest of the needy. Or my friend Thelma, who tells prostitutes in Manila about Jesus’ love. Or Phyllis, who chooses to reach in the inner city when she could make more money and have fewer hassles at a safe suburban school.
Few of us will perform such heroic acts of mercy, but all of us can practice mercy (compassion in action) in small ways. For example:
– The next time someone shares a hurt with you, don’t just say, “I’ll pray for you.” Take her aside right then and pray for her.
– When ever you write a check to that missionary you support, take time to write a newsy postcard. Your money is important, but so is your caring.
– Inquire at a local nursing home about which patients never receive visitors. Visit once a month. Take along a book of short stories, a magazine, or a newspaper, and read to them.
– The next time a friend visits you because she needs to talk, turn on the answering machine and ignore the phone. Your uninterrupted attention says, “You’re important to me.”
– While you’re raking your leaves, rake your neighbor’s as well. You might be easing the pressure of an overwhelming do-list.
– Is a friend’s car out of commission? Take her with you for a morning of running errands (run her errands, not just yours!), then treat her to lunch. When circumstances are working against us, it’s nice to know people are “for us.”
– Watch for people at church who sit alone, stand alone after the service, or otherwise look lonely. Introduce yourself. Make a double date to meet them for coffee and donuts on the following Sunday.
Help for the Homeless
From the fall 1994 issue of Leadership come two ideas for serving the homeless. They could become ministries of your entire congregation, your Sunday school class, or your neighborhood association. Be creative in adapting these ideas to fit our group and your community.
At All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Boise, church members bring specific items to donate to homeless shelters. The monthly schedule looks like this:
* January toothpaste/toothbrushes
* February cold and flu remedies
* March laundry soap and bleach
* April baby items
* May t-shirts
* June personal hygiene items
* July sheets and towels
* August school supplies
* September socks
* October mittens and gloves
* November coats and sweaters
* December hot-drink mixes/juices
At a San Diego church, members assembled lunch bags for the homeless with enough food for one day. The contents:
– Two breakfast bars
– Two pop-top cans of tuna
– Two pop-top cans of fruit
– A plastic fork and spoon
– Three boxed juice
– Two granola bars
– A small tube of toothpaste
– A small bar of soap
– A toothbrush
– A napkin
– A New Testament
– A five-dollar bill
– A letter from the congregation
Your Community Needs You
Volunteer organizations are hungry for people who will step in and serve their community. Whether you’re feeding the hungry, enhancing you town’s culture, or serving the local school, you are demonstrating that you care about the people around you. This is a message worth communicating in an age when many communities view Christians as enemies who want to control how their communities are run. Here are some ways to serve:
– Offer to volunteer at the local library. I.ibraries often need board members, volunteers to read during preschool programs, grant writers, or book shelves.
– Begin a program for moms at home. Many mothers become isolated when they decide to stay home, and social activities that welcome parent and child are a genuine service to families.
– Run for local office, or ask to be appointed to a local board such as planning or zoning. Get involved with special-events planning for your town or city.
– Join a service group such as Rotary, Lions, or Sertoma. Attend chamber of commerce meetings.
– Become an officer in the local parent-teacher organization, ask to be appointed to the school’s budget or planning committee, or run for school board.
– Get your church to produce a newsletter that not only includes events of your church but concerns of the community as well. Distribute it at local secular outlets.
– Make a list of volunteer opportunities in your community and distribute it to your Christian friends.
Six Ways to Serve Your Community
– Project warmth. Collect blankets, coats, and other warm clothing for the homeless. One group advertises their annual “blanket run” in the church newsletter and receives several truckloads of donated items. They also approach area businesses for monetary donations to buy rain ponchos and socks (the most requested items). Deliver your bounty to local homeless shelters and soup kitchens for distribution.
– Graffiti be gone. Gather buckets, scrub brushes, sandpaper, hoses, and so on and throw a graffiti clean-up party. Concentrate on a single area and you can achieve tangible results in one day.
– Urban garden. Help urban dwellers turn an abandoned city lot into a garden by providing seeds, tools, and muscle. Begin by checking with City Hall just in case special permits are required. Then set a time to plant the garden, alongside other neighborhood residents. As you tend the garden all summer, relationships will grow along with the plants.
– Prettify a park. Is there a neglected park in your neighborhood? Get permission from the appropriate local agency, then roll up your sleeves. You’ll need trash bags, work gloves, brooms, and gardening implements. Bring large pieces of screen to sift broken glass, gum, and dangerous objects from sandboxes. You may also need tools for repairing fences. Paint hopscotch and foursquare courts on the asphalt. Ask local businesses to donate fresh sand or tan bark.
– Expect plenty of onlookers. Perhaps you could invite the curious to a cookout at the park to celebrate its restoration.
– Treating without the tricks. Instead of collecting treats at Halloween, distribute them. One small-group dressed in amusing (but not scary) costumes and distributed sweets at the children’s hospital (check with the hospital first). This group was able to pray with some of the children’s parents, providing hope and encouragement.
– Gleanings. Farms and orchards in your area may allow you to collect leftover fruit and vegetables for distribution to food ministries. Groups who’ve done this are often amazed at the amount of food they can collect in a day.
Show a Person with AIDS You Care
AIDS is an indiscriminate killer. It afflicts young and old, rich and poor, white and black, homosexual and heterosexual, Christian and non-Christian. There arc some practical things you can do to show Christ’s love to people with AIDS:
– Visit them in the hospital or in their homes. Many people afflicted with AIDS have been abandoned by their families and friends, and they’re desperate for personal contact. Research indicates that the AIDS virus is transmitted only through a significant exchange of blood or fluids, so don’t let unfounded fears keep you from touching and hugging people who arc aching to feel Christ’s love.
– Hate the sin, love the sinner. People who contracted AIDS through homosexual behavior or drug abuse will expect you to blame and judge them. Surprise them with concern and compassion.
– Form a group to help with meals or home maintenance. As AIDS progresses.the victim’s strength diminishes. A hot meal or help with the housework can visibly express Christ’s love.
– Assist financially. Most AIDS victims soon grow too sick to work, if they don’t lose their jobs before then. That means dwindling incomes and mounting medical bills. Any financial help Christians can provide will go a long way in showing a person with AIDS that God cares.
– Pray with them. Your prayers will encourage and comfort those with AIDS. They can also provide tangible, physical and emotional help for AIDS sufferers.
An Application Bible Study on Servanthood
Look up each of these references and respond to the questions that follow: Matthew 18:1-5; 20:25-28; 23:1-12; Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-44; Luke 9:23-25, 46-49; 22:24-27; John 13:12-17; Philippians 2:5-11.
1. Forgetting our usual marks of leadership, if you were to make a list of people who serve selflessly, who would be on that list?
2. From the Scriptures above, you could get a list of servanthood traits that would look like this: servant, example, humble, child, younger, least, last, no force, no blind ambition, no reputation, human, obedient unto death. In which of these do you feel strongest and in which do you feel weakest?
3. For each of the other members of the group, state in which of these traits you think he or she is strongest.
4. If you were to “wash someone’s feet,” who would you go to and what would you do for him or her?
Eight Ways to Serve Your Local School
Confrontations between Christians and public school systems are often in the news. We admire those courageous souls who face the issues head-on. But what if we aren’t the confrontational type? Is there anything we can do to influence our public schools for the good?
We can serve. By His own testimony, Jesus came not as a military conqueror, not as a political leader, not as a celebrity, but as a servant. And as a servant, He has changed countless lives over many centuries.
Worldwide Challenge (January/February 1994) lists ways you can influence your local school through serving:
– Pray for administrators, teachers, students, and parents by name. Mothers Who Care is a group committed to praying for children, schools, and communities. For information about them, write to Mothers Who Care, 100 Support Lane, Dept. 2600, Orlando, FL 32809.
– Volunteer in the school setting to allow others to see Christ in you. Tutor, decorate classrooms at the start of the semester, coach, help in the office or library, chaperone field trips, be a “room mother.”
– Write letters to the administration, praising them for things they are doing well or for their strong moral values. Also write to express concerns or observations.
– Invest your prayers or finances in someone with a ministry to students or faculty. Ask them if there are practical ways you can serve them and their ministry.
– Bring coffee or donuts to the teachers’ lounge along with a thank-you note to encourage the educators.
– Help your children reach out to classmates. Teach them how to communicate their faith in Christ. Help them incorporate what they believe into their school projects and speeches.
– Open your home to gatherings for students, teachers, or administrators. Youth workers often need a place to hold meetings and would be encouraged to have your support.
– Donate books to the school library.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”