Let Me Help


The other day, a young man walked into the church looking for help. He spoke to our Communications Coordinator, who asked if I would speak to him. She explained a little bit about his situation to me and I agreed to take some time to have a conversation with the young man.

We sat down, did the basic introductions, and I asked him, “How can we (the church) help you today?” 

With that, the young man went into a very lengthy and passionate description of his home situation and his need for help. 

As I listened, I was able to detect a certain sense of desperation in his voice and his body language. He was troubled. He was in need. It was very clear that his home life is a wreck. 

What struck me was how he was certain that he knew exactly what he needed to help his situation. It was very apparent what he believed he needed and that he wasn’t going to settle for anything short of his desires.

I asked him the question, “Outside of coming into the church today, have you taken any other steps to meet this need?” A question like this helps me determine whether or not a person is truly looking for “help” or a “handout”. Are you at the end of your rope or are you simply looking for a quick fix?

We have to ask questions like this because, too often, there are people who try to scam the church (and other organizations that offer help). When the church is scammed, it becomes more difficult to help those who truly need it…as we sometimes run short of assistance funds. 

However, I have always taken the stance that it is better to err on the side of grace. Therefore, I am more inclined to simple provide some assistance and hope, pray, trust that those receiving will use it wisely and for appropriate uses (to buy food, gas, pay rent/utilities, and not to buy alcohol, drugs, etc). 

I said to the young man, “It’s very apparent that you have decided how to fix your situation. What exactly are you hoping I can do for you today?”

He went into another lengthy and passionate description of how he just needed me to give him a certain amount of money…in cash…and that would fix his problems.

I explained to him how we are able to help those in need. I explained that what he was asking for went outside of our guidelines for assistance. I explained that we could help, but not in the ways he had spelled out. 

At this point, he started to get very upset, raising his voice, and became somewhat aggressive. I patiently listened to his response. 

I then offered him some options for ways our church could assist him. I explained how it was obvious that his home life was not good and that it might be best if he found a way out of that environment. I offered some information on organizations in town that could help with some temporary housing, rental assistance, and so on. That was not a very good option.

I gave an option on how I could help him with some of his expenses, but that I could not and would not give him cash. It wasn’t that I felt he would use the cash for dishonest purposes. We simply have some guidelines and I was sticking to the policy. 

His response was, “Well, basically you’re telling me that you can’t help me. You’re telling me that I’m screwed and I need to go sell my body on the street in order to fix my situation.”

I asked him to slow down for a minute. I reminded him that I had offered to help him, but that I was unable to help him in the way he desired to be helped. I asked him to hear me out and let me help. I said, “I want to help you out. But you have to let me help you.”

I explained how, if he had this serious need, I could help him address those needs in a healthy manner. 

It boiled down to a young man who had already decided what he needed and wasn’t open to hearing other options. 

This experience got me thinking about how, too often, I am certain about what I need…and how unwilling I am to hear other options. I have been that young man. I have said, “No, that won’t do. That won’t fix my problem. What I need is this. Now, either deliver or leave me alone.”

I found myself wondering if we are truly open to letting others help us? Will you let me help you? Will I let you help me? Isn’t that sort of what the body of Christ is supposed to be about? “People helping people…It’s powerful stuff!”

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

~Matthew 10:14

A Quiet Place


Last Sunday, Pastor Scott talked about the importance for blocking out time for Jesus in our busy, hectic lives. And, he wasn’t really talking about reading the Bible more, praying longer, or signing up for another small group. To me, it seemed that he was urging us to simply put ourselves in an environment where we could just slow down, listen, and embrace the presence of the Holy One. 

The message reminded me of the importance of having a quiet place. When I lived in Elkhart, I would head out to Bonneyville Mill, hike around, and find a quiet place to simple sit and take it all in. When we lived in Muncie, I would head to the “not-so-busy” side of the Prairie Creek Reservoir, hike around, find a nice spot near the water, sit down and simply take it all in. 

Over the last 2+ years that we have lived in Lafayette, I’ve been searching for a nice, quiet place. While there are many beautiful spots in the Greater Lafayette area, I have had a great deal of trouble finding a spot where I felt like I could simply sit and take it all in. That is, until yesterday.

After lunch, I found myself just going stir crazy and needing to get out of the office. So, I got in my car and started driving. While driving around in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, I saw a sign for what appeared to be a nice, quiet place. I pulled in and my car was the only one in the parking area. This was a good sign!

I hiked around the property for a while…and then…there it was…an amazing spot to just sit and take it all in. 

So, I sat and listened to the wind. I listened to the birds and other animals, bugs, creatures making their wonderfully beautiful tunes. I gazed upon the trees, the plants, the flowers, even the weeds, and found myself awestruck by their beauty. 

And, I listened. I sat and listened…in a meditative sense…attempting to clear my mind of my various lists of tasks…in an attempt to connect with that Inner Voice (aka Holy Spirit). 

It was incredibly refreshing. It was exactly what I needed.

It’s in those quiet times, where I simply get away with God, where I find myself refreshed, renewed, and restored. It is in those quiet times where I find myself being strengthened for what I will face in the days to come.

It is in those quiet times where I am reminded of the importance of simply sitting down and listening…not just for God, but also for what people are trying to say.

I’m not going to tell you where my quiet place is…because it’s mine…and I like my privacy. However, I will encourage you to find a quiet place where you can simply sit and take it all in.

 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. ~Mark 1:35

Be still, and know that I am God~Psalm 46:10

How to Make Sure I Won’t Visit or Return to Your Church

Today, I found myself thinking about some of the reasons I would not visit or return to any given church. So, I thought I’d share some of those and invite any of my readers to share their reasons too!

1. Horrible Website

  • I’m not really talking about design here…instead I’m talking about content.
  • In the world of church websites, I really think simple/user friendly websites are best.
  • However, some churches have incredible websites that make my jaw drop. I immediately want to visit some churches simply by visiting their homepage. But, this is not the norm, nor the expectation.
  • The expectation is that you will have up-to-date, accurate information. Seriously, if you aren’t going to update your website, you have two options: 1) Put very basic information that will not change often (worship times, location, phone number, etc.) 2) Shut it down.
  • For example, today I visited a website that had three major offenses: 1) The picture on the front page was of a church in a very urban setting. There would be nothing wrong with that, except the fact that this particular church is located in the middle of a cornfield in central Indiana. 2) The most recent “church event” listed was for a family night…four years ago. 3) The “pastor page” featured a pastor who has not been employed by that particular church in three years.

2. Inadequate Childcare

  • Before I had children, I totally under-estimated the importance of high quality childcare. I always thought parents were just being hyper-sensitive. I was wrong.
  • The quality of your childcare and the condition of your nursery/childcare areas will indicate whether or not you really desire to have young families in your church.
  • Whether you regularly have children in worship or not, you should always be prepared with childcare. Churches should get into the practice of expecting to have visitors…and visitors with children.
  • As an example, several years ago I visited a church on Easter Sunday. My oldest daughter became restless in the middle of the service. To be honest, I was getting restless too. So, I looked in the church bulletin and found out where the nursery was located. We discretely exited the service and made our way to the nursery. When we arrived at the “toddler nursery”, we found a locked door and a dark room. A staff member walked by and I asked about childcare. She looked at me and said, “We never offer childcare on Easter Sunday”, as if I should have already known that. So, I looked in the bulletin, it did not state anything about not offering childcare. There wasn’t a note on the door. I asked if there was any way she could let me in the nursery. She reluctantly let me in. By the end of the service, the nursery was filled with 4 parents and 7 children. Seems like that church might want to “rethink” their childcare ministry.

3. Bad Facebook Page

  • Much like the website, what is the point of having a Facebook page (or any other kind of social media page/account) if you aren’t going to utilize it?

4. Bad Church Sign

  • Just do a Google search for “bad church signs” and that will explain this one. Too many churches offend me before I even get in the door.

5. You Refer to Your Church as a “Friendly Church”

  • I have found that “friendly” churches are usually only friendly to club members. You know what I mean…we are friendly to those who are already our friends. We visit and spend time with our circle of friends and rarely, if ever, reach out to people outside of our small circles. I have watched this take place during every single “greeting” time at every single church I have served. Now, there may be one or two in each church who break the mold…and they are awesome…but they are too few.
  • I have visited churches known to be “friendly” and “hospitable” only to experience the opposite. Here is an example: Before I got married, I visited a church in the greater Elkhart area known for being “friendly”, “hospitable”, and “cutting edge”. This was a possibility because they had some evening services. I walked in and made my way to the information booth. At the information booth, everything was self-serve. I filled out an information card and grabbed some pamphlets about ministries that seemed interesting. I walked into the sanctuary and grabbed a seat in the middle of the room. I noticed the church was filled with people in my peer group. I was hopeful. I listened to the band. I stood up during the “greet one another” period. I listened to the sermon. I listened to the band. I stuck around for a while after the service. I walked out the door, got into my car, and didn’t talk to a single person until I walked into my favorite little pub in Goshen and was warmly greeted by the bartender and had a great conversation with others sitting at the bar.
  • If churches want to be “friendly” and “hospitable”, we need to figure out how to make everyone feel that they are welcome, invited, and valued.

6. Bad Coffee

  • You might laugh at this one, but I will seriously not return to your church if you serve me bad coffee.
  • I will pre-judge the quality of your entire ministry based on the coffee you serve. If the coffee is excellent, you will have raised the bar and I will be excited to see what else the church has to offer. If the coffee is lousy, I won’t expect much from the band, sermon, discipleship, or outreach opportunities.
  • In 2012, churches should NOT be having conversations about whether or not to serve coffee.
  • In 2012, churches should NOT be having conversations about whether or not to allow coffee in the sanctuary.
  • In 2012, church SHOULD be having conversations about what coffee to serve.
  • Seriously, churches should put thought into the coffee they serve. Not only does the quality of the coffee reflect what you think about those drinking it, it also says something about what you think of those growing, harvesting, roasting, selling, and distributing the coffee. Yes, coffee is moral/ethical issue. Think about serving coffee that is fairly traded and organic. Churches should think beyond Folgers. Churches should come face-to-face with reality and realize that Starbucks does not equal “good” coffee.

7. The Pastor Continually Refers to “Those” People in the Sermon

  • Simply put, it’s not just “those” people…it’s all of us. The language used in the pulpit should be more inclusive. That’s what I love about the pastors I have had the opportunity to serve with throughout the years. Every single one of them had the “we’re all in this together” attitude.

This hardly scratches the surface. So, what are some of the reasons you would not visit or return to a church?