“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth” (1 John 3:17-18). This is a biblical mandate clearly stating that those who live with the love of God inside of them will act on that love by showing compassion for others. This is one reason why homeless ministries have become important in many churches across the nation.
Starting a homeless ministry can seem like a daunting task, especially if your church is on the smaller side. Larger churches are better equipped with not only funds but also a seemingly endless supply of volunteers. This doesn’t mean that a more moderately sized church cannot reach out to the homeless community. On the contrary, starting a homeless ministry in your own church can be as simple as gathering a few people together to go serve at the local shelter once a week. Some churches choose to deliver baked goods and fresh food to the homeless on certain days of the week, or even schedule a downtown foot washing to demonstrate compassion actively.
Other congregations find themselves in the position where they can begin their own homeless shelter. This can be done by finding a suitable location that the church can afford to rent monthly. Tax exemptions, incorporation, and a license must also be taken into consideration. Once done, it’s easy to ask the community and members of the congregation for ongoing donations of both time and money. Spread the word among local churches to see if they can come up with other donations such as blankets, beds, clothing, toys, and food.
While actively serving the community, talk to those that are dealing with homelessness. See if you can find out what has caused the poverty in your local community. Was it mostly due to job layoffs? Drug or alcohol habits? Whatever the cause, see if you can help each individual get back on his or her feet. Offer to lend business clothes to the homeless in the event that someone gets a job interview. You can even pay for their hair care so they look more professional, which will double their chances of being hired. Look into rehabilitation services for those who need it. Plan on going beyond the typical soup kitchen model to show compassion unlike any they have seen before.