Saturday, February 05, 2011


by Keith Giles

In our fourth installment in this series I wanted to share some specific ideas and insights about the kinds of ministry to the poor that you can initiate in your community.

I want to stress that most of these do not require a large budget, or a team of thousands. Most of these can be done with families, including children of all ages, and two or three adults who are willing to listen, love and share what they have with people in need.

*Lower-income families (Housing projects, apartments, motels, etc.)
*Motel Ministry (especially for kids and families)
*Food/Grocery Distribution
*Homeless Ministry (Hot Dogs in the Park)
*Senior Home Visitation
*Prostitute Ministry
*Single Moms/Widows (Free oil changes, yardwork, grocery assistance, etc.)

*Lower-income families (Housing projects, apartments, motels, etc.)

This ministry works best when you get to know the management of the apartment or motel, etc. Explain to them that you're not there to preach or to promote your church. Disarm them with the idea that you really just want to bless people. Explain to them that your ministry will involve giving away free groceries (if possible) or hosting game times for the children (or puppet shows, crafts, etc.). Help them to visualize a monthly or bi-weekly carnival that they get to help bring to their residents. It makes them look like heroes and it gives you an opportunity to express the love of Jesus in tangible ways.

*Motel Ministry (especially for kids and families)
Essentially the same as above. I'd only add that befriending people is the key here. Pray for them. Listen to their problems. Find ways to help them that are practical. This should not be about money. It should be about helping them discover resources in your community, hooking up with other ministries doing work to help with education, rent, health concerns, etc.

Also, ask God to highlight one or two people or families that He wants you to focus on and love them with all you've got. Invite them to your house for pizza and a movie. Hang out with them. Learn to love them. This is where you realize that the real ministry is being done to you, not by you.

*Food/Grocery Distribution
Find a food bank nearby. Second Harvest is a national food bank, but you may have another in your area. Our small house church can purchase a week's worth of groceries for twenty or thirty families for under $100 a month.

As I've said previously, don't distribute the food after you preach. Just give them the food up front and bless them. Ask them at the end of the food line if they want prayer. Most will say yes. If not, just smile and bless them as they go back into their rooms. Consistency is vital.

*Homeless Ministry (Hot Dogs in the Park)
Again, this is very cheap and it's more about getting to know people who happen to be homeless and less about throwing food at the poor and running home.

We found a park where a lot of homeless hang out that also had barbecue stations at each picnic table. Our group set up the grill, cooked the dogs, laid out the fixings and then fanned out to invite the homeless to join us for a picnic. We sat with them, ate with them, asked them their names, where they were from, etc. Even our kids enjoyed getting to know our new friends.

*Senior Home Visitation
You will not believe the treasures that are hidden away in the senior homes near your house. Former Generals in WW2, former actresses, singers, engineers, writers, and even regular people who have amazing stories to tell. All they need is someone to listen. Give it time and you will soon find yourself falling in love with these people.

*Prostitute Ministry
This one is waayyy outside my comfort zone, but I've been out around 3 times with small teams to try to connect and pray for these girls. I'll write in more detail about the challenges and dangers of this ministry next week. Not for the faint of heart.

*Single Moms/Widows (Free oil changes, yardwork, grocery assistance, etc.)
This is more of a Men's Ministry thing, but it can be awesome to bless single Moms and Widows who need assistance around the house, with the yard, the car, etc.
Oh, and it's Biblical too.

*Local Newspaper/Community Response Ministry

This is one I've always wanted to do but have yet to attempt. Basically it involves reading the local paper and responding in compassion to people in your city who experience the death of a loved one, is the victim of abuse or rape or violence, tragedy, etc. This is one that I feel could have a huge impact on your community if your church or small group could consistently respond to people in need of comfort and prayer support.

*Community clean-up (graffitti cleaning, trash pick-up, etc.)
Steve Sjogren and Mike Pilavachi have championed this form of "no strings attached" service to the community. When I was at Soul Survivor I was involved with massive groups of teens taking to the streets and cleaning up parks, neighborhoods, etc. This may involve contacting city officials and cooperating with them to discover their needs and partner with their employees.

*Clean toilets for local businesses
Again, Steve Sjogren championed this one a long time ago. It's an amazing way to demonstrate the love of Jesus in practical ways to local business owners. Most will be blown away that you show up with a bucket and cleansers to do the ugly job that none of them wants to do. When you explain to them that you're doing it because Jesus washed feet and this is the closest thing in our modern society to that, you'll be amazed at the reactions you get. Worth it for the stories you get to tell later, if nothing else.

*Free Car Wash
Be careful. People will argue with you to take their money. They simply cannot bring themselves to receive a free blessing with no strings attached. Do it anyway.

NEXT WEEK: We'll finish off this series by looking at the specific challenges and dangers of working directly with the homeless and with prostitues.



Jeremy Myers said...

Is that a book or website from Steve Sjogren and Mike Pilivachi?

Anonymous said...


This is good! Thanks for going to all the trouble of writing all this down. I will be sure to read carefully, digest, and make use of your insights as we continue, in my home church, to be involved in the lives of the less privileged...I will also encourage others to come and read this.

A fellow pilgrim, in Ottawa-Gatineau, Canada