The Benevolence Survival Guide

for the Church

By Deacon “Chappie”


The guide below is the complete text also available in hard copy on Amazon by the same name. It is free here because I think it is important. Each guide sold on Amazon nets $1.00 for our church benevolence budget. Feel free to print and share this information with struggling pastors and deacons. If you’d like to contribute to this work, feel free to use the Designated Fund option on our church’s giving page.


Table of Contents

Preface. 2

The Church will be a Target 3

People are Relatively Predictable. 4

Existing Works vs Real World. 4

Categories of People Who Request Help. 5

Responding vs Reacting. 7

Prayer, Precepts, and other People. 8

What To Do for The Mentally Unstable. 11

Assuming the Role of a Parent 11

Figure Out the Real Need. 12

One-Time-Deal 13

Group Homes. 15

No Worries for Tomorrow.. 15

The Gamer 17

Indicators of a Gamer 17

Keeping Track. 20

Establishing Rolls. 20

Their Standards Are Not Your Standards. 21

Final Words. 22

About the Author 23





Chances are, you have found this guide because you are a pastor, or maybe you’re a lay leader who has been given the responsibility of church benevolence. As a Deacon, I was given this responsibility a number of years ago. Wide-eyed and concerned, I immediately sought guidance from books and every other source. I read as much as I could find, but what I found in those books and courses didn’t match what I (we) experienced in real life.

After years of struggling, I began to see patterns of who came to the church for help, what they said, and how they acted. I finally decided to write those patterns down for my own sanity and now I’ve decided to make that real-life experience available to everyone who may be able to benefit from it. These are only my observations and suggestions. Your mileage may vary.

Everyone needs a personal relationship with Jesus. They also need food, water, clothing, shelter, companionship, and compassion. If you’re able to properly discern each individual’s situation, you’ll more likely be able to provide them with the help they really need, not necessarily the help they ask for or want. This information may also assist you in protecting yourself and the church physically and financially. It might even produce a harvest of spiritual fruit. Praise the Lord! At the very least, I trust it will keep you from pulling your hair out in frustration.

Keep in mind, these synopsized observations are non-scientific, non-peer reviewed, and they will probably make the psychology and the theology communities cringe. With that in mind, let’s entertain the thought that my analysis is wrong, barbaric, and uniformed. If that is the case, I humbly request real scholarly work to be accomplished to correct this work and provide real guidance for benevolence for all categories of people who ask for help from the church. Again, scholarly research-based guidance in this area is scarce.

The Church will be a Target

The church will be a target for people who ask for help because scripture encourages (demands) giving to the poor. In the United States, our government, for better or worse, also becomes a target. I’ve visited a few third world countries where the needy don’t even dream of asking their government for help. But the church, worldwide, is a target for people in search of resources.


People are Relatively Predictable

Advertisers, for instance, are now able to determine every detail of our life and place perfectly-timed ads in front of us.  Like the advertiser, we want to understand our “customer” with the goals of giving them what they really need to survive and, most of all, introducing them to the Lord and/or helping them grow in their walk with Him.

Existing Works vs Real World

Scripture, and well-meaning contemporary authors who have used scripture as their primary source, tell us we should help the needy. Most of those sources clearly deal with people who are mentally stable. The next diagram categorizes people into two continuums based on four categories. “Mentally Stable” and “Mentally Unstable” is the first continuum and it is laid out vertically. “Rich” and “Poor” comprise the second continuum, and it is laid out horizontally. Granted, this is a grossly simplified categorization of people, but this is survival, and for the purposes of this work, it’s the best way to grasp the situation. Let’s define what we mean by those terms in this context.

Categories of People Who Request Help

  • Rich = regular income and could eat and have shelter for more than a couple of weeks if they lost that income
  • Poor = little or no regular income and could possibly starve or die from exposure without being helped in some way
  • Mentally Stable = can plan, understand cause/effect and delayed gratification
  • Mentally Unstable = little ability to plan; may understand cause/effect and delayed gratification but has no ability to bring those to bear
Diagram of Where Scripture and Contemporary Books Focus


However, as we start to populate the diagram with real-world occurrences of the people who come to the church for help, we see most of them are in the mentally unstable and poor quadrant.


Diagram of Occurrences


Dealing with people outside the bottom circle is easy, even a joy, and a pleasure. It’s possible they could even be church members, which is even more of a joy and to whom we are even more scripturally responsible. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, in When Helping Hurts, and Robert Lubton’s Toxic Charity provided excellent direction when people have good cognitive abilities, and I’m grateful for their work. However, I found a shortfall in the area of dealing with people who are mentally unstable and those who purposefully game the system. These are the ones with whom we need help. They’re still image bearers despite the visual and verbal display. They deserve respect as people whom God has chosen to be in front of you. But be honest with yourself, these are the ones with whom we dread to interact.

Responding vs Reacting

We’re going to deal with the hard cases which you will (emphasis on “will”) encounter. Hopefully it will enable you to respond instead of react. Responding shows you have pre-thought about what you will do in a situation. Reacting shows lack of thought and will likely lead to bad outcomes.

Prayer, Precepts, and other People

As you can see by the bottom circle, most of the benevolent issues will be outside what the Lord directly provided guidance for in scripture. But what the Lord does not directly provide in scripture, He means for us to discern based on 1) prayer for discernment, 2) precepts we see in scripture, and 3) other Spirit led People. There is wisdom in counsel.

  1. Pray for Discernment
  2. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, but in all ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight”
  3. John 14:16-18 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
  4. John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
  5. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
  6. Precepts in Scripture 
  7. Prov 25:21-22 and (Rom 12:20) If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
    • Of course we do not look upon someone in need as an “enemy” however, if you encounter a “gamer” (talked about later) that person views you as a target and you need to be as “…shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matt 10:16)
  8. Matt 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.
  9. Matt 25:40 “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.’
  10. Matt 26:11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.
  11. Rom 12:13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
  12. 1Thes 5:14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
  13. James 2:16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
  14. Matt 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Matt 5:42 was saved to the end because it is one of the most difficult scriptures, yet it was recorded in the Sermon On The Mount from the mouth of our Lord. With that in mind, we need to DO SOMETHING. We need to give something to the one who asks. Whatever you give, it must be what is best for the individual, but not necessarily what the person asked.
  1. Other Spirit Led People
  2. Prov 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
  3. Prov 24:6 Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.

What To Do for The Mentally Unstable

Again, dealing with someone in need who is mentally stable, and not gaming the system, is a joy; an absolute thrill to help. However, when dealing with people who are mentally challenged or unstable, you must take on the role of the parent.

Assuming the Role of a Parent

Just like when there’s a disturbance in a home among children, the parent has to discern what happened and what needs to be done. As the parent, you need to figure out whether there’s a real need, or if it is part of a game. Either way, you:

  1. pray with the person in need, out loud (but not loudly), to ask for immediate discernment from the Lord, and to set the tone.
  2. have their best interest in mind.
  3. desire they have a relationship with the Lord.
  4. realize they will often ask for the wrong things as a child will often ask for candy. (Does a parent always give candy to their child when they ask?)
  5. realize most of these individuals will not be able to plan or perceive past a couple of days. Planning for the future is not a reasonable concept in their current state. Remember, they are like a child.
  6. be the parent even when high emotions are involved by responding, not reacting. If the individual resorts to physical threats, the interaction is over. Diffuse the situation and separate yourself and others from them.

Figure Out the Real Need

If the person is mentally unstable, in need, and not gaming the system, figure out their real need. Food, water, shelter, safety, etc. Obviously, we must preserve life and limb. In as much as reasonable, the church and individuals should help them in the immediate. In addition, we can often connect them with other Christian, private, and government programs and agencies to help long-term. I recommend creating a resource such as our for your local community. Many of the resources provided on the site are Christian-based, some are private, and others are government entities. Keep in mind, if you employ a government or private resource on behalf of the individual, you may need to continue as the spiritual influence as you partner with the external entity.




If the church or an individual gives them something, make them understand, this is a one-time-deal. (Keep in mind, you’re in the role of the parent, and parents will often set boundaries to test an issue.) This may keep them from coming back habitually and forcing you and/or the church into an “enabler” role. However, if they do come back for help, like Tim Keller said, “… it’s considered an invitation to get into their lives.” It would be time to attempt getting them into Christian counseling, a stable situation, budget counseling, spiritual training, etc.

It’s not likely your church has a standing cadre of professional Christian therapists. Welcome to the club. As such, our government provides a myriad of services for the mentally ill and the developmentally challenged. Seek to partner with these organizations for the good of the individual’s mind, body, and soul. If this approach is taken, you’ll make new friends and contacts in your community. It’s possible one of your new contacts needs to hear the gospel, or maybe they just need to hear the word “thanks” from someone who appreciates their work.

However, here’s a word of caution. Our government often pushes agendas directly contrary to Biblical precepts. Our part of the country is less susceptible to this push. If you partner with a government agency for the good of the individual, make every attempt to discern their methodologies. The person you’re trying to help already has issues. They don’t need to be thrown to the wolves.

Even if you’re giving a one-time deal, don’t give cash. Every book on this topic, regardless of the population, hammers this point, “don’t give cash.” But it’s so much easier to whip out a few bucks and be done with it. They’re happy and you’re free to go your way. Don’t do it. Deal with the situation as best you can. After all, the Lord has put them in front of you for a reason.

So, while we say “Don’t give cash.” We’ve all done it and, to be honest, we’ll probably do it again. When asked for cash by a panhandler, David Guzik, a prominent Santa Barbara pastor and commentator, will commonly deny or give a little something based on his discernment, spiritual or physical. If he does give a few dollars, he asks if he can pray openly and powerfully for the person. When they agree he prays something like this. “Lord, if this is a good person who loves you and is going to use this money for good in their life; if this money will be a blessing for them, then I pray that you would bless this money and cause more to come their way, but God if this money is going to go to drugs, or alcohol, or pornography, or anything that is destructive to this person, then I pray there would be a curse on this money and it would be the last money they would see in a long long time.” Then he asks them if they still want the money and he said he’s had people say no, no thank you.

Group Homes

For many people in the mentally challenged category, a Christian group home would seem to be a perfect solution. There is structure, food, shelter, and a professional staff. Perfect! Sadly, we have attempted to help several candidates into good group homes where they would have a stable, predictable life situation. However, our success rate has been zero. We would jump-through-hoops, call in favors, and promise financial support to the home. Then, when it’s time for the individual to go, they disappear. This frustrates us, but with that said, don’t be discouraged when your prize student falls away. The adventure of scrounging for survival is obviously more appealing than being told when to get up, and when to lay down.

No Worries for Tomorrow

I’m sure our psychology friends would be able to identify this trait because it is very common. The most common attribute is the desire for complete freedom to live and do as they please. Yet, by necessity, they are a slave to the act of panhandling. In addition, when they “score” a few bucks, it seems to give them a rush, all-be-it temporary. For instance, if we provide a couple of nights in a motel because of freezing temperatures, upon visiting them in the motel, they have absolutely no concern for night number three; the night they will be out on the street again. I’m making no moral judgment on this attribute; simply an observation of a regular occurrence which still baffles me. At the very least, they’re taking our Lord very literal, when He said in Matthew 6:34, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”



The Gamer

This is not the slightly chubby 20-something male who sits on the couch all day in his parent’s basement playing video games. This is the person who “games” the benevolence system by saying or doing anything to get a handout. They are high on the proverbial survival intelligence scale. They have seen it all before; knowing the right words to say; the right look, the right smell, and even the right time. They will approach you when they know you don’t have time to address real problems. Their real hope is you will not get into-their-business but rather give them what they ask and move them along. The more aggressive gamer will push further if you appear to be more compliant or naive.  (That’s usually me.)

Indicators of a Gamer

  1. Impending Peril: “If I don’t get (this much $), then (something bad) is going to happen (pick a day).”  A crisis situation presented to you puts all of the responsibility and stress on you and almost completely relieves the one doing the asking. It also relieves them from having to mitigate the same event happening again. By doing “nothing” in the past, they have “planned” to obtain your services to fix the crisis just in time. You are now their servant by force.
  2. Theft/Loss: “Someone stole my __________.” ID, wallet, cell phone, medication etc.
  3. Outside Help is Coming: “I just need $_______ for ________ until my check comes in next ________.” There’s always help coming in the near future, but right now, they will need help to get by.
    • Pharmacy: “I need $20 to pick up medication from the pharmacy.” This is getting more common. But invariably, the pharmacy they use is pretty far away to keep you from taking them there. I’ve never taken them to “their pharmacy” but would be interested to try it someday.
  4. Blessers: Real gamers will often use terms like “God bless you”, “thank you Jesus”, and “I could tell you were a Christian.” Of course this is NOT an indication of their spiritual well-being. It’s an indication they know their target.
  5. Seeding: They will sprinkle their stories with more “needs” in hopes you’ll pick up on the hints. If you travel in a vehicle to wherever they need to go, the gamer will continually talk and give hints of other issues that money could fix right away. If you don’t bite on one issue, the gamer will move onto the next. A really good seeder is also a fast talker.
  6. Fast Talker: The fast talker will give you little or no time to talk. They will “seed” you with stories and needs in an effort to overwhelm you with related and unrelated information quickly in hopes you will give the resource, accept the “God bless you”, and move on.
  7. Agreer: They will agree to anything; counseling, a program, Bible study, work. But usually none of these are of any real interest.
  8. Rotten and Skinny: Having rotten teeth and being skinny are strong indications of methamphetamine use. ANY resource given will be turned into a meth-hit quickly. These people need Jesus and a professional rehabilitation program. A good friend of mine has narrowly escaped this addiction. After six years of being clean, he said, “it is still like stepping lightly around a huge sucking hole.” This is terrible addiction. Don’t feed their addiction in any way.

What To Do for a Gamer

Be patient, (1Thes 5:14) even when you know you’re a “mark” and you’re getting played. Christ died for the gamer. Be the parent; pray for the gamer, stay focused, and look for opportunities to share the gospel.

Delay the gamer as much as possible, and although we should never give cash as we’ve learned from the helping books, this may be the best way to handle a gamer. Delay long, and help in a minor way; something insignificant that would not be worth their time to attempt again. “Here’s a buck. I’m sorry, that’s all I/we can do.” If they come back again, the Father may be drawing them back with purpose.

Keeping Track

Our local benevolence site at, provides a listing of local resources. It also provides a portal to enter some basic information each time we encounter someone asking for help. In this way, we can track their activity with us over time. You should also check out a commercial site offering more extensive and shared services called at Our church does not use their services but they look awesome.

Establishing Rolls

In our church, the Elders have assigned a benevolence deacon who has the authority to commit a certain amount of funds in most any situation. However, if the funding needed is over a certain threshold, (and most of them are), the elders are brought into the conversation to advise and authorize appropriate resources.

We use an app called Groupme which works well by notifying all parties of the benevolence issue. Once the message is posted to the group, it technically pulls the deacon out of the decision loop and enables them to say to the requester, “I’ve up-channeled your need and it’s out of my hands. We can only wait for them to respond. So, how’s your spiritual walk with the Lord?” This arrangement removes the deacon from playing the role of the person-who-needs-to-be-convinced and allows them to be the one who is concerned for their spiritual wellbeing. People who approach the church for help usually have complex problems. Of course, complex problems are best handled when they are broken down into discrete parts.


Their Standards Are Not Your Standards

Every person we’ve helped in the mentally unstable / poor category lives differently than you and me. It’s not a sin to be dirty, to live in a tent, or even to beg. And yet, as we attempt to help them, in the back of our minds, (be honest) we’re hoping and praying they will get a bath, a regular housing situation, and to stop begging. The truth of the matter is those things are not a goal for most of them. Again, that’s not a sin, and we border on sinning ourselves if we think less of them for any of those things. Our goal is for their human survival and for them to be able to perceive the Lord’s calling beyond the perceived need. Be the gospel enabler, not the dependance enabler.

Final Words

This is a tough endeavor and there is a high probability of failure even with all the books and pre-thought. But it’s Okay; you’ll fail while attempting to do what our Lord told us to do, and that, in and of itself, is a huge success. If you attempt to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, rejoice, regardless of the outcome. 1Thes 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.



About the Author

Chappie has been a Deacon in a Baptist church since 1993 and now serves at in Hattiesburg, MS. He and his wife of 42 years have two children and eight grandchildren.

If you would like to provide feedback, please email Chappie at