The year 2020 has been one of many surprises for most Americans. We started 2020 with record low unemployment numbers, but the COVID Pandemic has changed that. There are now more than 10% of Americans unemployed, and that job loss has put a financial strain on many families. Many of these hurting families go to the church for benevolence assistance.
Most churches deal with requests for benevolence assistance at one time or another.
Creating a policy and procedure for church benevolence assistance helps to ensure consistency in practice.
It is essential to have church benevolence guidelines in place, so everyone understands the steps to take when a request comes in.
A church benevolence policy should provide specific steps for the process.
This includes defining criteria for receiving benevolence, an approval process, and creating a benevolence assistance application.
Keep in mind that issues of benevolent help are of a confidential nature, and applicant information should only be shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know.
Church Benevolence Policy Example:
ABC Community Church will make benevolence determinations based on the following criteria, application, and approval process.
ABC Community Church will make payment directly to the vendor of a benevolent request or provide the member with a gift card as determined by the approval committee.
At no time will the recipient receive cash or personal check payment directly from ABC Community Church.
Criteria for Benevolence:
- The Church member is in good standing.
Note: your church will need to define what good standing means.
- The church members are required to complete a benevolence application form before the distribution of assistance.
- The applicant can demonstrate that they do not have the means to provide the necessary food or shelter for themselves or their family.
- The applicant has experienced a disaster (fire, tornado, flood, etc.) or sudden unemployment (for example, COVID-related job loss).
- The applicant is experiencing a severe family crisis.
Note: your church will need to define what a family crisis is.
- The applicant is a victim of a crime.
- The member or family is experiencing a catastrophic medical issue.
Process for Benevolence:
- Elder or pastor receives requests for benevolence.
- Elder asks the member to complete the benevolence form and informs them of the approval process and the timeline for approval.
- Member completes benevolence request form and gives to elder or pastor.
- The benevolence review committee (two elders and a pastor) reviews the request and approves or denies the request by signing the benevolence application.
- If the application is denied, the elder contacts the member and informs them of the decision.
- If the application is approved, the elder shares the application with the treasurer and acquires funds for benevolence.
- An elder purchases gift cards or instructs the treasurer to pay the benevolent bills (no funds are to be paid directly to the applicant). Funds should be disbursed by gift card or check written directly to the vendor.
- Elder follows up and provides the applicant with the benevolent disbursement.
- Benevolent approvals and amounts of disbursed funds should be entered into the church database for future reference.
Treasurer prepares monthly benevolence reports for the church board.
- Benevolence Committee should be comprised of two elders and a senior pastor.
- The committee should be available to meet Sundays or Wednesdays after church services to review benevolence applications and make recommendations.
- The church treasurer should be available on Sundays and Wednesdays after church to make benevolent disbursements and record them in the church database.
Example Benevolence Assistance Application Form
This is an example policy, and every church is different, so use this as a guide to develop guidelines that are appropriate for your members and church culture.
If you are a member of SCM you can login to your account here to access editable copies of a benevolence policy, benevolence application form, and benevolence approval process.
If you are not a member and would like access to editable copies of a benevolence policy, benevolence application form, and benevolence approval process, you can learn more here.
How does your church handle benevolence requests?