We all want to make a difference, but most of us feel powerless in the face of massively complex systems and cultural inertia. We wonder, can we really change anything? Should we somehow speak out, or at least post something, about what we care about? The good news is that there are real ways to make an impact beyond your vote and social media, and I’ve compiled a list to help.
Our vote is not our most powerful tool for change. Our life and all the resources at our disposal can move the needle way more. That issue you’re so passionate about? Vote, and turn it into actual change for a real person in your city right now.
We can’t change the system overnight, but each of us can change the life of someone in it.
Now, I know this is the point where you begin to skim or stop reading for all sorts of reasons, so let me address a few of them:
- You’re dismissing this as naive or idealistic. That’s OK. I get it. It is idealistic to think that everyone would do something. But that doesn’t make it wrong. If everyone who reads this acted on say, the abortion ideas below, we could adopt all of the orphans in the state of Ohio (where I’m writing). I know that might sound naive again. I know that not everyone will act. But you know what doesn’t matter about that? Even though this article won’t solve the orphan crisis, you can solve the crisis of living as an orphan for one kid. Why don’t you give it a try? More reactions? Keep reading.
- You’re thinking, “Umm…that’s way harder. I don’t know if I’m up for that.” Yeah, it is. Doing something that can make a tangible difference is unbelievably more work than just talking about it. Honestly, it’s a little overwhelming just thinking about it. I’m totally guilty of getting ramped up in impassioned conversations with others who agree with me. For the record here, I think we can all engage, but I’m mostly writing to people who follow Jesus. Because if you do: this is what we signed up for. This is literally what the Kingdom of God1 looks like—laying down our lives for others. That’s not an abstract concept or a poetic phrase. It means inconveniencing ourselves, giving up our comforts, and even suffering for those who need it. We were described as prisoners, orphans, sick without a doctor, poor, and nearly every other issue on this list by God in the Bible, and He came for us. A vote or an impassioned speech here and there cannot be our only move. Care about something? GREAT. What if we showed it tangibly in-person with someone who needs it?
- You’re thinking, “Eh, aren’t some of these ideas kind of radical? Don’t only super intense activists do these sorts of things?” Maybe, but that Kingdom of God I keep referencing often looks that way. We label people who act against the grain “radical,” but you know what? If more of us joined them, they wouldn’t be so radical in the stigmatized, out-of-reach perception of the word. It would become normal. Then an actual lifestyle of justice, mercy, and sacrificial action that looks like Jesus can begin to spread.
- You’re struggling to feel the passion. “These don’t really impact me. If I’m honest, I don’t know if I care enough to get involved.” Thanks for being honest—honestly. That’s a brave thing to admit. But if the issues below don’t personally impact you, you are a perfect person to act. That means you probably have resources, influence, and means to make a tangible difference. If we leave the burden of solving systemic issues to those who are currently experiencing the oppression of them, how in the world would it ever change? Those with power and means must rise on behalf of others. Again, I can only speak to people who follow Jesus with this level of insistence, but He left the comforts of heaven to live among the broken, hurting, sick, and poor. He gave up everything not only to save us but to reset the world in a Kingdom lifestyle. And He told us to follow Him. Still not sure this is your problem? Galatians 6:2 sums it up succinctly: Carry each others’ burdens, for in this way, you fulfill the law of Christ. Or Luke 12:48, For everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
- You notice I’m missing something below. Agreed. I’m missing so many. That one you just noticed—do that one! Good catch.
The rest of this article is simply a list of ideas. It’s imperfect and incomplete, but it’s simply meant to help us move. Whichever issue you care about most, I think it’s possible that God Himself sparked your passion for it so that you could do something about it.
Last disclaimer: While these aren’t all perfect fits, they are all active contributors to change—especially in the Kingdom economy. By that, I mean, God’s resources and potential are unlimited. But His management of them works very differently. He’s the God who multiplies fishes and loaves. He takes food that should only feed a few and ends up with leftovers after feeding thousands. He’s the God who uses the most unlikely people to free entire nations and lead them to places of abundance. The only requirements are that we believe and actually act on it.
Some of the ideas below are relatively small acts. Some are life-altering moves. Ask God what you have to give (time, money, a home, a family, mentoring, etc.), and ask for the courage to offer it.
- Mentor at-risk kids through programs like City Gospel Mission’s Youth Mentoring
- Engage in a prison ministry
- Become a workplace that provides second chance employment
- Help stop the foster care to prison pipeline through fostering
- Volunteer at places like CityLink Center where people with records are given second chances to develop skills and get jobs
- Coach youth sports and mentor the kids you notice are at-risk and need someone
- Join the UNDIVIDED Justice Team
- Volunteer at the places like the Eve Center
- Support adoptive or foster parents you know with meals, babysitting, gift cards, chauffeuring kids, and more.
- Advocate to improve working conditions and benefits for mothers in your business
- Join Safe Families
- Provide a home for a child who needs one through adoption or fostering
- Volunteer at places like CityLink
- Mentor at-risk kids through programs like City Gospel Mission’s Youth Mentoring
- Befriend and consistently support single-parent families
- Donate or work on cars with programs like Wheels
- Build ongoing relationships with the under-resourced at places like The Outlet at City Gospel Mission
- Support organizations like Off the Streets
- Open your mind and life to others around the world by going on a GO Trip. Our partnerships financially and relationally support people before immigration becomes a last resort.
- Sponsor a child through Compassion International
- Join the Kentucky Refugee Ministry
- Volunteer with Su Casa
- Learn a second language or tutor an ESL student
- Befriend someone who is vulnerable in the health care system. Proactively, consistently lend your resources, advocacy, money, friendship, and support.
- Volunteer on our hospital prayer teams
- Support organizations like Behavioral Health
- Pay off someone’s medical debt
Equity and Justice
- Develop genuine friendships with someone of a different race, socioeconomic level, or worldview than you.
- Experience UNDIVIDED
- Raise your kids with a better perspective. Buy kids’ books or movies with people who look and live differently than you to build exposure, familiarity, and trust into their worldview.
No one can solve it all, but we can all do something for someone. It may not seem to matter in the grand scheme, but it will deeply matter for that person, and that matters immensely.
Just as a bonus: It’ll change your life too. I’ve engaged at least one of those bullet points in every category, and each one deeply changes me for the better. That may sound selfish, but God is just good that way. Following His lead comes at a cost up front but always leads to good. Now, homelessness, immigration, mass incarceration, and more aren’t just topics to me. They each have a face—a friend I can call and continue to partner with for change.
Even as I was writing this, my husband and I decided to go for it and begin the adoption process. We’ve always wanted to, but we have three kids ages four and under, so life is nuts right now. We get very little sleep. Adding another kid will significantly impact how much time and money we have for ourselves. So if we were thinking for ourselves, this would be a hard no. Or at least a “not yet.” But then we remember the Kingdom economy. We remember that true religion is taking care of orphans (and widows.) We remember that children are always a blessing (without being blind to the fact that it will be hard.) We remember that while we wish our house had more sleep, stayed cleaner, had a little more cushion in different areas—it’s still a palace and, more importantly, a family to a kid who needs it. Why wouldn’t we do whatever we can to share what we have?
Pick a place to act and make it count. Jesus didn’t run for office (which doesn’t mean it’s wrong.) But He believed investing radically in a few would matter. Let’s try to do the same. Let’s make radical normal.
Disclaimer: Many of these resources listed here are located in the Greater Cincinnati Area, but a similar organization almost certainly exists in your city, too. You and Google can do this. Start searching for your spot to engage now.
1When I say Kingdom of God, I mean any space where God’s goodness is reigning. It can show up in big or small ways, define large or small territories. It can be a momentary act or the ongoing lifestyle of a person or home who put God’s ways before their own. It’s defined by following Jesus and mirroring his example vs. the ways of culture, values, or human leaders who are all ultimately imperfect. It has supernatural power, because it’s fueled by a God who is infinitely more capable to accomplish good.