Providing and Caring

Last week, our staff spent some time at Union Gospel Mission here in Fort Worth. From time to time we take staff field trips to local ministry organizations with whom we partner. It helps us stay connected with them, encourages them, and gives us good ideas of new ways to partner with each organization.

Something that hit me during our time at UGM: There is a difference between providing for people and caring for people. Providing is product-oriented. Caring is people-oriented.

Many parachurch organizations and churches are providers of goods and services. Sometimes those products are tangible (food, diapers, clothes), and sometimes they are intangible (marriage help, parenting advice, Bible knowledge). We come up with programs and products to offer the people we serve. They partake of the product and come back when they "run out."

A caring organization makes the starting point the people. It doesn't stop providing once the initial felt need is met but continues searching for ways to serve and love people beyond even what they realize they need.

Many homeless shelters are providers. Union Gospel Mission cares for the homeless. Here's an example: Most homeless shelters provide a hot meal and place to sleep for the homeless; a significant thing. But when a homeless person comes to Union Gospel Mission for the night they are given clean scrubs to wear and their street clothes are checked. While they sleep, their clothes are laundered and folded s0 that they leave the next morning wearing clean clothes.

Union Gospel Mission has taken the step beyond just providing; they're caring for people. By making people the starting point moving beyond just the felt need, Union Gospel Mission is seeing amazing fruit in sharing the Gospel.

Why? They're living it out. Jesus' death and resurrection was not just provision. He saw and met a need we hadn't even begun to think of yet (Romans 5:8).