A few months ago, I helped people at a local church sign-up to sponsor children. During the first half of my shift, I got asked a lot of questions.
- Are there any children with a birthday closer to my kid’s birthday?
- Can I write to my child in Spanish, or do I have to write in English?
- Can I send my child a Christmas present, or do I have to just send her money?
I thought many of the questions were trivial. They made me frustrated. I didn’t think people were grasping the big picture that kids are living in poverty and urgently need help.
But as my shift went on, and as I was continually asked these types of questions, I realized the questions weren’t trivial at all. In fact, these type of questions were the most important questions that can be asked.
Because sponsoring a child is not about setting up an automatic withdrawal. It is about building a relationship. And in a relationship, the small things matter.
In a relationship, birthdays matter. And communication matters. And gifts matter.
For the rest of my shift, I told people how they could have a relationship with a child. And people responded! More than 110 children were sponsored that morning.
But the relational aspect of sponsorship is not just important in getting people to sign up. It is also important throughout the sponsorship journey, because love is best shown in a relational context.
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And love is what our world needs more than money.
Here are five easy ways to build a relationship with the child you sponsor and to keep sponsorship from becoming something that just shows up on your monthly bank statement:
1. Write letters.
Steady, two-way conversation is the first step to developing a great relationship.
2. Make special occasions special.
Make sure you do something special for his or her birthday or Christmas. Compassion makes this really easy because they remind you when special occasions are coming up, and give you plenty of options for what you can do. Take advantage of these special times to show you care.
3. Pray every day.
If you pray for the child or teen you sponsor a lot, you will begin to care for him or her more. You will begin to care about whether or not he or she had a good day. Or is feeling sad. Or is making good friends.
Praying will build a desire for a more personal and intimate relationship with your child.
I realize that visiting the child you sponsor might not be financially possible. One way to overcome the financial obstacle is to find a short-term mission trip going to a place near his or her child development center, and raise support. Ask your friends and family members to donate money to cover the cost of your trip.
Compassion may only be able to arrange an afternoon visit with him or her, as you will primarily be doing the tasks of the mission trip, but your relationship will be taken to a very real, tangible level.
5. Tell your sponsorship stories.
When people are important to you, you talk about them.
Talk about the child you sponsor with other people and encourage others to get involved in the sponsorship story. This will make your sponsorship experience come alive and matter in your present life. It will help bridge the gap of distance.
These are a few ideas how to build a relationship with the child you’re investing in. If you can’t do all of these, start with just one and see what a difference it makes.
Do you have other ideas on how to build a relationship with child you sponsor? I would love for you to share them in the comments!
This was originally published on June 24th, 2012.