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The hurting church: creating brand new ways to care

| by Kim Niles

I've now been attending church for over four decades. During this time, I have seen a lot of change...changes in music, lighting, outreach, specialized ministries, and beyond.

The one ministry I would love to see more change in is Care Ministry.

God has been so very good to have blessed and entrusted our family with many challenges that have completely changed the way I view Care Ministry. These situations were extremely painful, but the insight I was able to glean from these circumstances opened my eyes to the serious flaws our churches may be unknowingly operating from.

Each church staff and church has the wonderful opportunity to seek God's heart of how to best serve, help, and encourage their congregations. Here are my updated recommendations for Care Ministry that God has placed on my heart:

1. If able, hire a full-time Care Pastor. If your budget doesnt currently allow for this, consider hiring a part-time Care Pastor, or training an intern or qualified volunteer until you are able to budget for this important staff role. It is so very important to have one leader and a team of trained volunteers underneath that leader who can exclusively focus on the spiritual, emotional and mental care of those who are hurting in your church.

2. As stated above, create a Care Ministry team. These volunteers will have a very important role, so please choose wisely. Choose trusted, more seasoned church members who are mature and who have been through grief and/or major life challenges. Without compassion, empathy, wisdom, and a servant's spirit, your Care Ministry pastor and team will eventually become discouraged, flat, and ineffective.

3. Have permanent care ministries continually in place. These are classes, programs and ministries people can readily attend, or be invited to, at any moment. I suggest strong ministries in the areas of grief, divorce/single parenting, marriage/family, substance abuse/addictions, life challenges, and mental illness. Some very well-known ministries are GriefShare, DivorceCare, and Celebrate Recovery, but there are many others that are great as well. Ask others in the ministry what programs they have found to be beneficial and helpful. Implement whatever programs, classes, and ministries you feel will be a good fit for your church,

4. Every church staff should tour a church who is an established leader in Care Ministry. I had the opportunity to recently visit Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and was very impressed with their Care Ministry structure. I was also impressed with their outreach abilities and efforts through their ministries. I truly was in awe the entire time I was touring their campus and marveled at the difference they were making not just in their church, but in their community.

5. Continually seek to learn new ways to care for your congregation. The Care Ministry pastor and volunteer staff should attend training sessions and/or conferences (in person or online) at least bi-annually to learn how to effectively serve those who are hurting in the church. There will always be a need to continually learn how to care for others and to learn how to best address situations.

6. Partner with a bible-based counseling center or Christian therapists where you can refer more difficult situations. You will most likely run into circumstances and issues you will not feel qualified to give counsel or help. At the times when you know you are not qualified to help, explain to the hurting person that they are completely loved and welcome to attend your church...being sure to invite them to your Care Ministry's classes and programs, but honestly explain to them that you feel you are not qualified to help. Then ask if they would be comfortable in setting up an appointment with the counseling center your church has chosen. Encourage them but do NOT pressure them.

7. Understand that Care Ministry is never a one-size-fits-all situation or solution, and is never to be treated as a cookie-cutter experience. Each person who comes to you for help and encouragement is placing a tremendous amount of trust in you. Always seek to give them the upmost concern, respect, love, encouragement, and care. Ask yourself, If this hurting individual was my spouse, my child, or a close family member, how would I want them to be treated? How would I best want them to be encouraged or helped? In Care Ministry, it can become easy to help or encourage others using the same methods, without truly trying to understand each person and their situation. It's important to view each person as being sent by God for you to care about and love back to life.

8. Realize the importance of follow up. If a church member entrusts their heart and situation into your care, please understand that is a very high compliment and gift. After investing in their life, periodically follow up with them and ask about their situation and how they are doing spiritually. A big part of Care Ministry is extended care where the church member knows they are more than just a number. They should leave your Care Ministry in much better shape than when they first arrived, and they should always feel genuinely cared about.

We all have a common goal: we each want the very best care for those who come into contact with our churches and ministries.

This week, let's consider what is working in our care ministries, what isn't, and what we can do differently. Let's pray and ask God to bless us with fresh ideas on how to best create a specialized, brand new way to care for those who are hurting in our churches.

Photo source: istock

Kim Niles

Kim Niles is the author of Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You and is the co-founder of Grief Bites. She is also a writer and partner for YouVersion, a Community Leader at her church, and an inspirational speaker.

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