Before some folks loose their mind, I am not going to preach to you about your religious beliefs or experiences. This has nothing to do with religion at all (I don’t think). However, I do want to make a case for philanthropic social equity – ministry. By this I mean the giving back of your time and your talents, and not just a corner of your wallet.
Too many of us will willingly plop some change in a bucket as we run through an intersection, drop money in a box at a counter as we check-out, or agree to give a couple of dollars at work to join in the company pool to help a cause. There is even still a small group of people who will get on a board to help further the efforts of a particular non-profit. These are all commendable and I think we need to continue to do them. However, the greatest gift anyone can give is one’s self through giving their time.
I believe there once was a time when we needed to create boards with smart, committed people on them to develop strategies to address the many issues of our day. However, now we have a wealth of boards that are mainly used as a networking tool by the upwardly mobile and/or the wannabees to position themselves in some shape, form or fashion. How do I know this? Because I have been on my share of boards! The majority of the boards’ people serve on, they never do any more than just that. They go to a nice air-conditioned office and sit around a table of prominent people who too closely resemble themselves, and usually live in the same neighborhood, or one just like theirs in a different part of town, and politely discuss serious issues for about an hour once a quarter. Annually they will write a check and if they stay with the board long enough or write a big enough check, will eventually get an award proving what an asset they are to the community. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a crime; it is just so little to people who have been given so much.
My grandfather who had an eighth grade education told me that every person should participate in life long ministry – the rare act of attending to the needs of someone personally. Ministry is personal. You can’t do it from a boardroom, or through writing a check. That is philanthropy and charity and they are very much needed too. However, our country and our world badly needs ministry. We individually need to experience people who care enough to make it personal (and I am not talking about what you do for family or close friends). We need to care for people even before ourselves. There are people at your work who need ministry. They need to know someone cares about them personally. There are people at schools and churches, in families and at events who all receive charity and advice but no ministry. Your greatest valuable resource is your time. Get outside your comfort zone at work or in the marketplace and practice ministry. Give away that most precious gift you have, yourself, to someone who needs personal attention. Make your life about ministry.