Care Ministry

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CARE: Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary?

A question we often ask is, “Do you view care as a primary, secondary, or tertiary ministry?” We find pastors are often quick to indicate ‘primary,’ regardless of how caring ministry is addressed at their church. Based on the standard set forth by Jesus and echoed throughout Scripture, we agree that the command to love people is a clear indication that care is a primary aspect of ministry.

The aim of this article is to distinguish between how caring tends to be represented at each of the different levels and to challenge church leaders to embrace a biblically-based discipling model of care. As you read the following summaries, consider which best reflects how your church addresses care (aka. congregational or pastoral care).

Christian Cross

TERTIARY –

Caring ministry is commonly regarded as a necessity and handled by paid staff. At this level, care is typically pastor-centric, and the approach to caring tends to be episodic and reactive. Knowing that many people expect pastors to be available 24x7 “in case of an emergency,” the role and responsibility for caring are often handled by the pastor on-call. Designating a staff member or having a part-time or retired pastor devoted to visiting people who are in the hospital, homebound, or reside in a nursing home may be normal for churches with a disproportionately high percentage of older congregants or people facing health challenges. Another example of care at the tertiary level is sending cards to people at set intervals (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries) and when needs arise (e.g., get well, sympathy).

Despite being established to function as the body of Christ, could it be that the comment – “We pay people to do that” – reflects a generally held belief and fosters a pastoral oriented approach to caring?

SECONDARY –

At this level, caring tends to be programmatic and task-oriented. Though people within the congregation may volunteer and serve in a specific and limited capacity, expressions of care tend to reflect specific issues (e.g., addictions, cancer, divorce, grief), and be managed by a staff member who oversees the various offerings and personally responds to many requests. Similar to a vending machine, care is often synonymous with self-service: request what you want when you want it. In other words, at the secondary level, churches strive to meet care needs by presenting people with options such as submitting a care/prayer request or participating in a class or support group. Some churches also have ministries that respond when an opportunity is discovered (e.g., meals, prayer quilts/shawls, Stephen Ministry). A few notable challenges with this approach include:

  • It is incumbent on people to acknowledge their circumstances and concerns.
  • We expect people to request assistance and know what type of help they need.
  • Emotional and spiritual support are frequent under-represented.

Could it be that the type of love Jesus is referring to is not that which is limited to designated volunteers, managed using to-do lists, or measured quantitatively?

PRIMARY –

To grasp what care entails, we first must understand what love requires. Throughout Scripture, we are repeatedly commanded and reminded to love God and love people. In fact, Jesus tells us to love as He loved (John 13:34-35). Given that Jesus loved us to death, He undoubtedly paints a picture of people loving and caring for one another in ways that are relational, sacrificial, and which focus on spiritual growth. Keep in mind that whenever Jesus fed, healed, or showed mercy, truth was proclaimed, and faith was the heart of the matter. While secondary and tertiary expressions may be a supplement, pastor visits, programs, and practical support are no substitute for people loving and caring for one another. Moreover, caring is not about tasks to be completed or problems to be solved; it’s about people to be loved.

Caring God’s way reflects abundant blessings, fosters deeper relationships, and is mutually beneficial.

A challenge to genuinely loving and caring for people is that our natural human tendencies are inconsistent with Godly wisdom and Jesus' teachings. As such, to care well there is often as much for people to learn as there is for them to unlearn. Until Christians are equipped and embrace the core biblical principles of loving for one another, caring is sure to be relegated to pastors and reduced to programs.

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ” (Colossians 2:2).

Care Ministry advocates caring as a primary aspect of ministry and resources churches to advance a discipling model of care that is founded and grounded in Scripture. We provide the framework (See Triangle diagram), tools, training, and support that churches need to engage and equip people to love and care for one another in ways that advance the mission of the church and make a Kingdom difference.

kingdom care_discipling triangle

“Go and do” what?

When you read the Parable of the Good Samaritan, on which aspect do you concentrate? 

  • The blatant disregard of the Rabbi and Levite?
  • The disdain between the Jews and Samaritans?
  • The elevation change between Jerusalem and Jericho?
  • Or, the man and the Good Samaritan? 

It does us well to focus on the namesake. Also, for us to "go and do likewise," it is imperative that we understand the Parable, what it teaches, and what's expected. 

Take time to pray about and meditate on the following:

VanGoghGoodSamaritan

The Good Samaritan
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890).
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (The Netherlands).

  1. Jesus tells us, the man was attacked by robbers and left naked, beaten, and half dead (Luke 10:30). Knowing that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a), could it be that the man embodies each of us?
  2. Knowing that “There is only One who is good” (Matthew 19:17), could it be that the Good Samaritan represents Jesus? After all, didn’t Jesus come so that we might have life and have it to the full? (John 10:10b)
  3. Just as the Son of Man had to be lifted up (John 3:14), could it be that bandaging and cleansing the man’s wounds, lifting him up, and bearing his weight is symbolic of what Jesus wants to do for each of us?
  4. Jesus then brings the man to the Inn. Could it be that the Inn represents the church, a birthing place (Matthew 1:23, John 3:3) where people are to be cared for and nourished by the Word of God, and that is central to the maturation process?
  5. Notice how the story ends telling us Jesus paid the price and that He will return. Could it be that the Parable is the Gospel message? Might Jesus be communicating how vitally important it is for the church, the body of Christ, to spiritually care for one another? (See Romans 15:1-6, Galatians 6:2 and 1 Peter 5:7)
  6. Though the story ended, the Parable concludes with Jesus saying we are to go and show mercy. It might be helpful to think of mercy as clemency. Showing mercy is our opportunity to help people discover and delight in the freedom and fullness of life that is found only in Jesus.

As we grapple with the pressures of the world and face trials of various kinds, many people within our churches are feeling anything but alive. “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right” (James 2:8). If we love, we care. It’s the heartbeat of the Christ faith.

Providing Emotional and Spiritual Support

While health care professionals focus on the physical and psychological needs of people [patients], it is vitally important for the church to address the emotional and spiritual needs. When coming along side people who are encountering difficult life situations and struggles, they want to feel that there is an awareness of and appreciation for their feelings and circumstances. Additionally, people do not want to be criticized, fixed, or feel as though they are being judged. It is when there is a genuine sense of caring that people become increasingly willing to open up.

Two men in living room talking

Though emotional needs and spiritual needs are considered to be distinct and separate from one another, research has shown that in many ways they are interrelated. While both encompass a search for meaning and hope, spirituality goes farther to include religious practices and seeking the peace and presence of God. In fact, when people’s emotional and spiritual needs are not adequately addressed, anger, depression, feelings of hopelessness, negative emotions and stress amplify our feelings of separation from God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Additionally, there are increased health risks and greater potential to experience health complications. So what are some of the benefits of emotional and spiritual care?

  • Deeper relationships and spiritual growth
  • A sense of connectedness
  • Improved quality of life
  • Enhanced emotional coping and psychosocial functioning
  • Improved emotional and functional adjustment
  • Decreased anxiety
  • And more

A challenge for Christians and the church, however, is that the combination of ‘good intentions’ and ‘good people’ doesn’t inevitably equate to loving and caring for people as Jesus commands. In other words, without a concerted effort, a clear sense of purpose, and solid biblically-based training, expressions of care are naturally secular and void of any spiritual support and encouragement. CARE may be the ultimate discipling opportunity as difficult life circumstances are where the proverbial rubber meets the road and faith becomes real. Don’t miss the discipling opportunity!

Creatures of Habit – The Easter Ham

It is fascinating to think of the many things we do without ever giving consideration as to why. As the following story points out, we often do the things we do for no other reason than it's the way we always have.

     As Donna was in the kitchen preparing the Easter ham, her husband asked, “Why do you always cut off the ends of the ham?”

     Donna paused for a moment and then responded, “That’s a good question. I’ve always cut off the ends of the ham because that’s the way my mother did it.”

Canned Ham

    With her curiosity peeked, Donna called her mother and asked why. Her mother replied with a similar sense of intrigue, “That’s the way my mother always did it.”

     Donna then called her grandmother, mentioned cutting off the ends of the ham and being perplexed as to why. Her grandmother broke out into laughter. Once she gained her composure, she answered, "Because the pan was too small." 

     Needless to say, Donna never cut off the ends of the ham again.

Caring ministry is not about tasks to be completed; rather it is about people to be loved. Similar to the ham story, church leaders often acknowledge that before joining our program, they had not given much consideration to caring ministry. Before you cut off the ends of the ham, take the time to reflect on what the Bible teaches us about caring for one another and what caring entails. Also, it may be wise to take time and explore the biblical basis of your current caring efforts.

Things that Really Matter

I’m sorry, friend, I let you down
I always thought we’d get around
to talkin’ ‘bout the things that really matter.

I had this plan to take it slow––
give you a change to get to know
the messenger before you heard the message.

It seems like every chance you had
to serve me well and make me glad,
you did just that and more to me and others.

An open door, your friendly smile,
a free dessert, and all the while
I waited for a chance to share my Jesus.

So many times I meant to say,
friend, you are His, He is the way
to know just why you’re here and where you’re going.

But now I’m left with deep regret
that I let fear and logic get
the best of me, and so my tongue fell silent.

Today your life slipped from your grasp––
I’ll never have the chance to ask
If you were His and He was your…forever.

But thanks to you I’m not the same––
I pray the next time, I will name
the One who knows the things that really matter.

By Tim Dommer - Used with permission.

CARE: Get in the game!

What do care ministry and football have in common?

We often use analogies to share ideas and information, as doing so helps people to recognize truths that they might otherwise overlook. While the 2016/17 NFL season ended earlier with Super Bowl 51, this article shares a primary tenet of football to demonstrate its relevance to caring ministry. Regardless of whether you are a football fan or you could care less about the game, take the time to reflect on the following:

new-soldier-field-Xsm

  1. If you were to ask ten people within your congregation to state the purpose of football, how do you think they would respond? The chances are that most spectators would say “to win” or “to be entertained.”

While it is imperative to be clear about your desired outcome, for the players, the blessings go far beyond just winning the game. In an article entitled What is the purpose of Football?, the author states that “The proper purpose of sport in a healthy culture is transcendence …to surpass or exceed ordinary limits.” He goes on to share the many things he learned from playing the sport that he could never have learned in a classroom. For example:

  • How to block and tackle
  • How to memorize plays and read keys
  • How to rely on others and be reliable
  • How to successfully compete
  • Commitment to training and preparation
  • The liberating benefits of subordinating my self-absorption and petty interests to a larger purpose

2.  If you were to ask the same people within your congregation to share the purpose of caring ministry, what would they say? Do you think they would:

  • Consistently indicate the desired outcome?
  • Comment on the types of issues often associated with caring?
  • Mention activities commonly associated with pastoral or congregational care?
  • Correlate caring to discipling?

Similar to football, there are many unforeseen benefits and blessings that come from implementing a biblically-based model of care. To help you recognize the importance of caring well, and in ways that glorify God and make a Kingdom difference, consider the following:

Jesus loves and cares for us!  Likewise, He commands us to love and, therefore, to care for one another. (See Matt. 22:34-40, John 13:34-35, 15:9-14, Gal. 5:4, Eph. 5:1-2)

Caring is discipling! To appreciate caring from a biblical perspective it may be helpful to think about people’s circumstances and challenges as precipitating events, and expressions of care as discipling opportunities.

There is massive growth potential! Difficult circumstances are often what prompt connections and spark people’s faith. Likewise, caring has a way of revealing people’s faith, which then fosters growth opportunities for people receiving care, and for those serving in a caring capacity.

At Care Ministry, we advocate and advance a biblically-based discipling model of care that is revealed in Scripture and grounded in God’s Word. If your church is serious about fostering deeper relationships, helping people experience spiritual growth, and enhancing the sense of community, it’s time we talk. But be prepared, the benefits and blessings inherent to discipling relationships are bountiful.

The bait or the Bible?

Could it be that church leaders and Christians in general are overlooking, wrongly interpreting, or unaware of what the Scriptures have to say about caring (a.k.a., comforting) for one another?

Throughout The Screwtape Letters, author C.S. Lewis writes that whether in the troughs or peaks of life, the Devil is all about perpetuating lies, anxiety, complacency, and despondency. Moreover, the evil one is doing everything in his power to keep us focused on ourselves so that we turn our attention away from God and one another. The Devil’s plan is simple (and arguable effective):

  • Keep people from “the serious intention of praying altogether.” (p.15)
  • Fix people’s attention inward and so they concentrate on their circumstances and not on God.
  • Do whatever it takes so the people maintain a lukewarm spiritual state.
  • Keep non-Christians and people who are less rooted in their faith away from “experienced Christians” so as to avoid appropriate and encouraging scripture passages from being shared.
  • Cause people to focus on the past and the uncertain future, instead of the eternal and the present.
  • Foster aggravation, confusion, and division so as to keep people away from church and disrupt Christian friendships.
trap

At Care Ministry, we advocate a biblically-based discipling model of care that is Christ-centered and thwarts the Devil’s plan. Our resources and training help churches provide care in ways that ​align with the mission of their church, deepen personal relationships, foster spiritual growth, and build a sense of community.

Embracing Storms

From sprinkles and sudden downpours to hail and hurricanes, weather is unpredictable and can change at a moment’s notice. While some storms may bring much needed rain, others can leave a path of destruction, cause collateral damage, and necessitate rebuilding. The same is true in life, and while the idea of welcoming storms may seem outlandish, according to Scripture, it is clear that storms serve a purpose.

​“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). ​​

Elephant storm

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”  ​– Unknown 

God uses storms to get our attention, refine us, and transform us. Also, it is often in the midst of life’s storms that people truly discover their need for God, draw near to him, and experience significant spiritual growth. Knowing that storms are a natural and expected part of life, instead of viewing storms as something to try and divert, evade, or rush through, imagine how things might be different if we did more to embrace storms and comfort people in the midst of life’s storms.