Which photo most represents ‘care’ or ‘caring’ and why?
Perception is real even when it is not reality
Knowing that we all have preconceived notions about caring ministry, the purpose of the exercise is to uncover people’s beliefs. Rather than including a photo that is obvious, we intentionally share photos that are vague as doing so compels people to reveal their attitudes and tendencies. Since our beliefs are often an impediment to the caring process, we offer the following insights in an attempt to help change perceptions that are inconsistent with a biblically-based discipling model of care.
Insights and tendencies
People who select this photo tend to equate caring with benevolence. Additionally, they frequently refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggesting that meeting the basic needs of people (e.g., food, clothing, shelter) is what’s most important. While expressions of kindness and generosity certainly play a vital role in sustaining human life, the challenge becomes finding the balance between being the church and becoming a social service agency. Knowing that God sent His one and only Son so that we might have eternal life, we contend that Jesus demands more than good deeds and temporary relief. Moreover, we believe that the works of service referred to in Ephesians 4:12 are spiritual, not humanitarian.
SUMMARY: Generosity is often considered secular, easy, and impersonal.
Sharing flowers or a meal tends to make people feel like they are “doing” something to be helpful, albeit more social. People who choose this photo regularly indicate they feel a need to bring something of value as if their presence (aka, “being”) is not enough. Based on anecdotal data, it seems some people are more willing to devote 1-2 hours to shopping, cooking, packaging, and delivering a meal than spend 15-30 minutes engaging in what might be an awkward conversation with someone facing a difficult situation or otherwise struggling.
Once in a while, people who select this photo comment that delivering a plate of cookies, flowers, or a meal provides a reason to visit, start a conversation, and “win the right to be heard.” While random acts of kindness can certainly help brighten people’s day, based on the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), we contend that Jesus prioritizes people [providing emotional support and spiritual encouragement] over tasks [potentially unnecessary busyness].
SUMMARY: Bringing Flowers often suggests a need for people to hide behind something.
People who pick the photo of the broken window tend to feel a responsibility to ‘fix-it.’ People, men especially, frequently comment that they are fixers and therefore, to make a difference or 'make it better,' they can’t help but give unsolicited advice. Despite a general frustration with people who try to tell us what we need to do, for some reason certain people are convinced their advice is always good. The reality is that people’s circumstances and challenges are always far more complex than we might imagine.
As we know from the story of Job, regardless of how well-meaning, making assumptions and assertions often do little to expression compassion or console people. Moreover, feeling a responsibility to ‘fix’ often translates into taking on people as projects and playing the role of savior. As Christians, our role and responsibility are to love people. Frankly, we tend to circumvent Jesus when we try to take matters into our own hands.
SUMMARY: The Broken Window tends to reflects a perceived need of people to take charge and exert control.
People who select this photo tend to be older and affiliated with a mainline denomination. Based on the way care has historically been addressed by the church, some people associate care with a pastor on-call and available to address the customary care issues (e.g., aging and health-related concerns, death, grieving) and visit people who are hospitalized, homebound, or in crisis. While there are certainly times when the direct involvement of a pastor is necessary or is helpful (e.g., a calming presence), all Christians are commanded to love one another (See Matthew 22:34-40, Luke 10:25-37).
Even though some people may feel neglected if a pastor is not personally involved every time they have a need, frankly, that is unreasonable and unfair. Pastors can’t be expected to do everything. Additionally, we find that the more involved pastors are, the more likely people are to disqualify themselves and abstain from the care process. Sadly, we’ve even heard people abdicate their role and responsibility to love their neighbor indicating “we pay someone to do that.”
SUMMARY: The Pastor photo often reflects tradition or a feeling of spiritual inadequacy.
In terms of 'Good,' 'Better,' and 'Best' - the following are our top picks.
BETTER - People who select the photo of the bench tend to see one of two things. A favorable response is when people associate caring with divine appointments and as a chance to slow down. Most people who choose this photo see caring ministry as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation and connect on a deeper level. Other comments are that this photo reflects that fact that caring is personal and relational.
A less frequent and less favorable response focuses on the bench being available or empty. Some people comment how sad it is that everyone is too busy and we have lost the wholesomeness and sense of community reflected in the Andy Griffin TV show. Others acknowledge that many people feel alone and lonely, yet they have no one to talk with that genuinely cares. They seem to accept the fact that’s just the way it is nowadays.
SUMMARY: The Bench tends to reflect a chance for people to connect on a deeper level.
BEST - We believe the photo of the seedling most closely aligns with Scripture. Furthermore, we contend that this photo is the best choice as it suggests new life and growth despite what may appear to be unfavorable circumstances. People who choose this photo tend to see caring ministry as an opportunity to enjoy deeper relationship, engage in meaningful conversations, and encourage one another in our faith. Additionally, despite our brokenness, people who select this photo tend to see caring as a chance to nurture and cultivate (aka, disciple) and often reference the Parable of the Sower.
SUMMARY: The Seedling reflects the recognition and opportunity for spiritual growth.
We are here to help!
Caring ministry is more about “being” and encouraging than it is “doing” and feeling a responsibility to “make it better.” If you feel caring is a burden, that it is awkward, or you look upon people with a sense of pity, it can be helpful to begin thinking about care not as tasks to be completed or problems to be fixed but rather, people to be loved. Perceptions are frequent barriers to loving and caring for people. As such, it can be helpful to uncover and begin to reframe your perceptions, so they more closely align with God Word.
We are devoted to providing the tools, training, and coaching that your church needs to:
- Shift perceptions and adopt a culture that embraces care
- Care in ways that align with the mission of your church
- Maximize the impact of your efforts and investments