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Worthy causes

My former pastor used to talk about leaving room in the margins of our budget in order to be able to give. In the Bible, the people are instructed to leave the corners of their fields as well as what is dropped by the harvesters so that the poor could come through the field after harvest and gather food for themselves. My pastor’s point was that we should leave room in our budgets to be able to give to those in need, in addition to our regularly scheduled charitable activities.

This is excellent advice that I really ought to take.  Like many families, finances are pretty tight right now, and there have been many times when a need has arisen and I haven’t been able to give, or not been able to give nearly what I wanted. We really need to leave room in the margins, but we haven’t done that. Our charity dollars are pretty much all claimed.

Over the past few months, we’ve received well over a dozen appeals for funding from high school and college students. These admirable young people are looking for funding for things like mission trips, service projects at home, and camps or trips that also include service projects. I’ve also seen fundraising efforts for people — not always students — to attend conferences of various types.

I understand that times are hard, and families don’t have a lot of money for extras, so crowd-sourcing is an appealing way to gain an experience that’s otherwise out of reach. And all of these things seem to be great experiences that would benefit the kids and young adults seeking them.


Funds are tight for everyone now, and honestly, we can’t afford to be writing many extra checks for people to not providing necessary goods or services for our family. Our charity dollars are carefully allotted.  Given so many worthy causes, life-changing experience for young people falls below disaster relief, long-term missions, or other worthy charities we want to support. I feel really bad about it, but honestly, I’ve just been ignoring those types of appeals entirely this year, and I doubt I’m the only one.
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But when times are tough, the tough get creative.  While I may not have a lot of extra money for direct donations, my family still needs goods and services.  I’ll go out of my way to spend my money in a way that also supports a worthy cause. Let’s be honest, if we’re talking a direct appeal for money, in a teen short term mission vs. bible translator match up, the teen is going to lose. But if the teen is offering me something I want or need to fund their trip, I’m probably going to go out of my way to buy from them.

I’ll give you an example.  A couple of years ago, a friend’s teenage daughter was raising funds for a short term mission trip. They did a variety of very creative fundraisers, but my favorite was the babysitting events where parents could drop off their kids and have a night out.  We went out of our way to patronize the event because we wanted to support their mission trip. Plus we got some alone time! I think we went to Home Depot.

There are a couple of benefits to this approach. First, you aren’t asking someone to spend extra money, you’re just asking them to direct money they would have spent toward you. Second, a kid working to earn their own way is really impressive. I’m 1,000 times more likely to tell friends and family to support that kid than to support the kid who sent me a letter or a link to a Go Fund Me site. Finally, we all value something more if we’ve earned it ourselves.

We think this will be our criteria for future donations for funding young people’s (very worthy and admirable!) experiences: we are happy to buy goods from you or pay you for services (if it’s in the budget!) in order to fund your mission trip, camp experience, etc. However, our direct donations are going to go to other places. And we’ve informed our kids that if they want to go on mission trips, they’ll be getting there from the fruit of their labor.

What do you think? How many appeals have you gotten this year and what are your criteria for donating? Would you be more willing to spend money for a worthy cause or just donate outright?

5 responses to “Worthy causes”

  1. Cindy Watson Avatar
    Cindy Watson

    Yes and no. I often contribute to teens doing short term missions. The long-term difference it makes in their lives and walk with the Lord. If I know them, I will give sacrificially because it means so much to me. That and local ministries like the homeless ministry at my church. I think we’re all prompted different ways and our lives contribute to what we put as a high priority with giving. Part of why we are a body/ community.

    1. April Avatar

      I absolutely see your point, Cindy. I do think short term missions are VERY beneficial to teens (and therefore to the body as a whole), BUT. And this is totally just me, when I have limited funds to give, I’d rather give those directly to someone who needs the support to do ministry and support someone’s experience in a different way, if I can. If money were no object, I might have a different answer, but then again, maybe not. I think there is a distinct difference between full-time missions and other service organizations and the experiences that young people are seeking. But that’s just my opinion, and I realize there are valid reasons for doing it other ways.

      1. Cindy Watson Avatar
        Cindy Watson

        I was thinking more on this, and I had the experience of a short term mission to a muslim country. The church that we fed into had been started 15 years previously by flyers distributed about radio broadcasts. And, as odd as it sounds, God prompted me to share this fact at a church that supported me. A man came up to me. He and another friend had done a short term college mission in a close by country, had deviated for two days( by God’s prompting) and distributed the flyers that started the church. He often wondered if that mission trip had done any good and was really needing encouragement. One of those God coincidences that I shared that tidbit of information when he was there. I think this also plays into how I spend my money. But this is how God has prompted me..why we’re not all thumbs or eyes! 🙂

        1. April Avatar

          I absolutely don’t want to convey that I don’t think short-term missions aren’t important or don’t have eternal impact. Obviously, they do! And I think individual Christians as well as churches should support those efforts. The question, for me, is how to support the many worthy causes that ask for my very limited funds. And yes, I think it’s completely legitimate (and probably even wiser!) to choose a different way of supporting them. Yay for diversity!

          1. Cindy Watson Avatar
            Cindy Watson

            I totally agree…I was just firming up my “why” I do what I do..Yes, yay for all the ways God has us work out His plan!

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