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. Doing so, we find, 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 debunk myths and challenge erroneous beliefs, that are inconsistent with a biblically-based discipling model of care.
Insights and tendencies
#1. The Money (aka, Generosity) – People who select this photo tend to equate caring with benevolence. Additionally, they frequently defer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and believe that meeting people’s basic needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter) is vitally important. While acts of kindness certainly play a role in sustaining human life, the challenge becomes finding the balance between being the church and becoming a social service agency. Based on the Gospel message, we contend that Jesus demands more than good deeds and temporary relief. Moreover, we believe that the expressions of love and works of service referred to in Matthew 25:31-46 and Ephesians 4:1-16 are spiritual, not humanitarian. SUMMARY: Being generous is often veiwed as 'secular & easy' / low involvement.
#2. The Flowers (aka, Bringing Flowers) – People who choose this photo regularly indicate caring is about doing something to be helpful, as if to suggest their presence (aka, being) is not enough. Additionally, some people comment that delivering a plate of cookies or a meal, albeit more social, provides a reason to visit and a chance to win the right to be heard. Based on anecdotal data, it seems people often prefer to devote 1-2 hours to shopping, cooking, and delivering a meal than to subject themselves to a 10-20 conversation that may be awkward or uncomfortable. 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 something suggests a tendency to hide behind tasks.
#3. The Broken Window – People who pick this photo regularly feel a need to exert control. Despite a general frustration with people who have an answer for everything, some folks are relentless about giving unsolicited advice. The reality is that everyone’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, voicing our opinion seldom expresses compassion or consoles people. Moreover, trying to “fix-it” or make it better 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: Feeling a need to “fix it" reflects an inclination to take charge.
#4. The Pastor – People who select this photo typically associate care with pastors addressing the customary care issues (e.g., aging & health-related issues, hospital visits death, grieving) and crisis concerns. While there are certainly times when the direct involvement of a pastor is helpful and even necessary, all Christians are commanded to love one another. Some people abdicate care to clergy as they feel (spiritually) inadequate, don’t know what to do or say, or they view caring as an inconvenience. Frankly, we find that the more involved pastors are, the more likely people are to disqualify themselves and abstain from the care process. SUMMARY: Relegating the role of care to paid staff abdicates personal responsibility.
In terms of 'Good,' 'Better,' and 'Best' - the following are our top picks.
#5. The Bench – [BETTER] People who select this photo 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 the bench see caring as a chance to engage in meaningful conversation and connect with people on a deeper level. Other comments are that this 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: Sitting suggests slowing down and connecting on a deeper level.
#6. The Seedling – [BEST] People who choose this photo tend to see caring as a ministry opportunity – a chance to cultivate (aka, disciple) and nurture people. Many also make reference to the Parable of the Sower and acknowledge the challenges we all encounter. We contend that the photo of the seedling is the best choice as it suggests new life: the chance to grow and flourish despite what may appear to be unfavorable circumstances. In spite of our brokenness, our sinful nature, and the situations and struggles we face, when Jesus is our Lord and Savior, there is always hope. SUMMARY: Growing despite adversity suggests a discipling opportunity.
We are here to help!
Ingrained beliefs about caring ministry are common barriers to loving and caring for people. As such, it can be helpful to uncover and reframe perceptions, and equip people to care in ways that more closely align with the Word of God. We provide the framework, tools, training, and support churches need to advance a biblically-based discipling model of care and maximize the impact of their ministry and discipling efforts.