4 Ideas for the unexpected By Travis Sharpe

If I have learned anything about homeless ministry, it’s that opportunities come at inopportune times. No one really plans an exact time that they will be in dire need. I have never had a homeless person call me to schedule a time to talk under an overpass. Nobody has ever called at three pm to let me know they would be calling back with an emergency at 2 am!

I have however, “happened” upon thousands of people in all kinds of weird situations. (Like the time I met a man making a bouquet of flowers in a dumpster I drove by, which I later bought and gave to my wife!) So what do you do when you “happen” upon someone in need? What do you do when the phone rings unexpectedly in the night?

Here are a few suggestions.

1. Pre-think a few scenarios. Although you might not know when or what, you can still be prepared for the when and what. Take some time and write down some possible ministry scenarios or opportunities. You can even base them on events that have already happened in the past. Next, write out what you would do if those scenarios happened.

You might be surprised at how you will then be able to “think on your feet” weeks or months later when the scenario happens in real life.

2. Be prepared. There are certain things that we can always be prepared for. For example, keep care packages in your vehicle all the time in case you come across someone on the side of the road that you never thought would be there. Have some McDonald’s gift cards in your wallet in case you meet someone who needs a meal.

Know what motels are available in your area and the room price with all taxes included for when you need to put someone up for a night in an emergency situation. Plan for the unplanned!

3. Know who can do what you cannot do. If you cannot do a certain thing, it’s a good idea to know who can. That way you can give a solid referral. For example, you might be a single lady and not able to give a ride to a man who needs to get to the local shelter. You could however have a list of two or three men in your church, Sunday school class or small group, who would be glad to help.

If you were prepared like that, then all of a sudden, you become valuable to someone that otherwise you would have sent away empty.

4. Be aware of available resources. In every town there are resources for people in need. Things like soup kitchens, food pantry’s, temp services, day shelters, and all sorts of other programs can be invaluable. But these resources are of no value if the people in need don’t know about them.

Take some time to get to know your community. Write down places, days and times that churches or ministries open their doors to offer help. When you are armed with this kind of information, you can help bridge the gap between what is available and the person in need.

What other ideas do you have for being ready for the unexpected? What would you add?

Announcement! We have scheduled our next Good Samaritan Class for October 25th in Augusta, GA. In this class we teach how to interact with the homeless and give churches a plan they can follow. The course is open to anyone who wants to attend.

Click here for more details and the schedule.