“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”— Matthew 25:35-40

As followers of Christ, part of how we honor our Savior is by giving to the poor, helping the oppressed, and encouraging the discouraged.

One way churches can follow through with this mission is by developing a benevolence policy. Having a structured policy will help your church be consistent in how you distribute aid and ensure proper stewardship of the money and resources entrusted to you.

Creating a benevolence policy isn’t hard, but it will take some organization by church leaders.

Here are four tips for creating a strong benevolence policy for your church.

Tip No. 1: Document the Policy

A comprehensive benevolent policy should include the following:

  • Description of the policy and who it will support.
  • Clear guidelines regarding the criteria for requesting, approving (or declining), and distributing benevolence money.
  • Identification of a proper chain of authority (who receives the request, reviews it, is authorized to approve it, and distributes it). This could involve members of the church in addition to church staff.

Tip No. 2: Gather a List of Local Resources

Churches are equipped to help the needy in a multitude of ways. There are instances, however, when the church isn’t the best resource.

For these situations, know where to turn. Compile a list of local organizations that provide aid such as shelter, counseling, job training, food banks, and medical/dental care. Determine when you’ll refer someone out to these organizations versus trying to provide direct assistance within your church.

Tip No. 3: Create a Request Form

Unfortunately, there will be people who come to your church asking for essentially a blank check. It’s important to have processes in place that can help vet these requests.

One way to do that is by requiring every potential recipient to fill out a request form. It doesn’t need to be long and overly complicated, but it should provide enough information so your team knows if the request falls under the guidelines of your benevolence policy. Make this form available in both electronic and paper formats.

Tip No. 4: Set a Budget

Decide how much funding your church will designate as part of the monthly benevolence budget. It’s tempting to want to help everyone all the time, but with a budget in place, you’ll have a better understanding of which requests you should handle within the church and which ones need outside assistance (see Tip No. 2).

Another key element to this is late request forms. If a request comes in after the money for that month has been spent, have a plan in place for handling those situations — and include it in your written policy. Will you defer that person to the next month, take money from next month’s budget to help, or do you have any rollover funds you could pull from?

Once you have a solid benevolence policy in place, the key is to ensure everyone involved knows the policy and adheres to it. When someone asks for help, our natural inclination is to say yes.

However, that may not always be in that person’s best interest or be the best use of church resources. By planning how to use your church benevolence funds, you can typically help those who need it the most while becoming more intentional with your giving.