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Michael O’Donnell: Churches need to step up

  • Published Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, at 12 a.m.

As we enter 2014, it is clear there are many in our society who need assistance, and a civilized society should take care of the least of these. I personally am grateful for the care given to Bruce, a 34-year-old autistic man who lost his parents and whom I now serve as guardian.

However, I believe that the government is inherently incapable of providing the necessary support for many families that are in need. In my opinion, many of these families need support from the community – not expanded bureaucracy.

I believe that part of the answer lies within ourselves. As a pastor, I am expressing a challenge to the church to step up to the plate and begin volunteering to help those in need.

Let me state very clearly that we are not asking the government to endorse our programs and certainly not to fund our programs. I’m asking the church to offer help to those in need, to make them a “part of your family.”

My church offers support to our local school (providing support and backpacks to those who are in need). We also offer free parenting classes to families that are trying to reintegrate their children into their households. Many in our church also serve as mentors through the Mentoring4Success program with the Kansas Department of Corrections, and others work with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

We also are working with inmates and their families through our Malachi Dads program. Many of these families feel overwhelmed by the problems they face, and often the government makes it more difficult for them to find stability. I believe that if we give of ourselves to share our time, talent and treasure, they can succeed.

All of these programs are clearly Christian and have been proved successful. For example, inmates who are involved with programs such as Malachi Dads have a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent compared with the national recidivism rate of more than 65 percent.

We certainly do not believe that we should force anyone to participate in a faith-based program. However, we should encourage those wishing to volunteer their services to those who wish to participate.

We are finding that the schools, prisons, family services, and those who work with the developmentally disabled are very grateful for those who offer their services. In speaking with legislators and agencies that are trying to do more with less, I’ve found open arms.

I’ve also found that the culture is not looking for us to judge but to help. For too long, churches have been overly concerned about taking care of their church and not reaching out to the world as Jesus commanded.

The problems are so large that many will say, “What can I do?” All of us can do something.

Michael O’Donnell is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Wichita.

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