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An opportunity to make a differencecomment (0)

April 22, 2010

By Jean Roberson

EDITOR’S NOTE — The Alabama Baptist staff is happy to introduce a new women’s column to the state Baptist paper. This new column will focus on resources women can use in their lives of faith, whether lived out at home, in the workplace or in the church. The columnist is Jean Roberson, MSW, LCSW — a ministry consultant for national Woman’s Missionary Union. She serves as team leader for the adult team and as director of Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps and International Initiatives. The column will run the first issue of each month beginning with the June 3 issue. Until then, we will run the column each week as a way of introduction to this new segment of the paper. 

People don’t respond to needs. They respond to an opportunity to make a difference.”

I was sitting in a workshop one day when I heard the speaker say those words.

I was stunned.

What do you mean people don’t respond to needs?

Of course, they respond to needs. After all, isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do — respond to needs?

Then I began thinking about it. We are surrounded by needs. There are needs in our families. Our friends have needs. In church, we hear prayer requests for people in devastating circumstances.

On the news, we hear of the needs in our country. We even have programs that highlight starving children on the other side of the world.

Eventually we begin to suffer compassion fatigue.

Our willingness to respond to the overwhelming needs begins to wane.

We know our Christian responsibility is to respond to the needs in the world, yet even we grow tired of all the needs and brokenness in the world.

Let’s consider Hurricane Katrina. Initially it seemed as though the entire country responded with supplies, volunteers and prayers. The needs of people were featured on television and radio. Communities readied to accept evacuees.

Then slowly the number of volunteers dropped and the donations slowed.

People began to move back into their own lives.

The homelessness, hunger, lack of resources and environmental hazards all continued. We just grew tired of hearing about them. 

In fact, when stories of continued needs in the affected areas were aired, some even responded with frustration that we would continue to focus attention on those areas — compassion fatigue. 

Consider instead the ministry that addresses a need in this way: “Here is a community that lacks school supplies. Your gift of $25 will buy school textbooks for one child.”

The need was shared but it was linked directly to a way that someone could make a specific difference.

I can walk away knowing that I bought textbooks for one child.

I made a difference.

While church groups rarely get involved with such fund-raising campaigns, the principle holds true for all volunteer activities.

Rather than educating people about a need in the community or church, describe specifically how one person’s involvement and time could make a difference.

You see, the speaker was right. People don’t respond to needs. They respond to an opportunity to make a difference.

A Takeaway Value . . .
When trying to mobilize people to do something, present it in terms of how their effort alleviates the problem in some way.

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