When people are developing or growing their care ministry they first start at building a volunteer team. This results in a huge missed opportunity.
Partnerships with community organizations not only strengthens your church’s capacity to care for its congregants but also catapults you forward in building trust and influence within the community.
In this episode, we are talking all about how your church can build community partners. But first I recommend you grab the free download 3 Steps to Building a Sustainable Care Ministry. This 17-page guide is packed with helpful information and strategies in how you can Step 1. Leverage your community partners. Step 2. Build a volunteer care team. And step 3 developing a training strategy.
How Churches fit into the model of care
By describing how people engage in the different levels of care you will see how Churches are able to be a key component to every level of care. Particularly how the church is able to support their congregants with connecting to community partners.
We use a triangle to describe the varying levels of care and the number of people who typically access care and support.
At the top, the long part of the triangle is the first of 5 sections is called self-care. This is the care that we offer ourselves when we have struggles. Everyone uses self-care when they struggle. This is why it’s the largest section. When people are stressed, in some capacity they tend to their needs. Like relaxing after a long hard day and exercising. The church is able to support self-care, by assisting people in learning healthy coping skills biblical principles of who they are in Christ.
The next level down is community care. When facing hardship most people engage their family and friends for comfort. Simply belonging to a body of faith is a protective factor. You might not share your struggle with this community, but you receive support and care by connecting with your community. Most people belong to come sort of community of friends, family or group.
Peer support is the intentional seeking out of support from informal supports. It’s asking for advice or comfort from friends, family, coworkers. When facing a challenge or hardship many people require peer support from informal connections to get through. In church, peer support is often seen to happen in small groups, coffee chats or prayer support.
The next section is pastoral care or mentorship. Not everyone, most or even many people need this level of support. But there are some people who need pastoral care, or mentors/coaches to overcome hardships and challenges. Pastoral and mentors are not clinicians but offer objective counsel often from a biblical perspective. They often have some training or certifications but are not licenced clinicians.
The 5th and final section, way down at the point is professional or clinical support. Only a few people require this level of support. Clinicians are licenced professionals with high levels of training. They offer treatment, therapeutic interventions and specialized support.
Even though most churches don’t have clinical skills within their organization they still have a huge influence on how their congregants engage with professional support. When churches are able to build partnerships or connections with clinicians and refer their congregants to their services sigma is removed.
It’s unrealistic to expect the pastoral team to be equipped to support every issue. Often, what people are facing is beyond the church’s skills and resources alone. That’s why it’s essential to partner with specialty organizations within your community or region to appropriately support the comprehensive needs of congregants.
When you build relationships with organizations, specialists, and resources in your community you become more effective in meeting your congregation’s needs at all of the 5 levels.
How your church can build community partners
#1 Finding Partners
I recommend beginning by looking for those in your congregation who may already be in the social or mental health system. There are often nurses, counsellors, and members of other professions that are connected to the mental health system in your area. These individuals are a great help in discovering what services are available.
As you learn about the resources in your community begin with finding those which specialize in areas that address common needs within your congregation. Download the template at hopemdestrong.org/careministry to help guide your search and record their contact and program information.
#2 Framing the Conversation
When contacting these organizations, start the conversation by inquiring about their programs and services. Becoming a partner is reciprocal. By asking about their programs as opposed to merely focusing on your own needs, you build the rapport and trust needed for a strong partnership.
It is helpful to avoid church language that may be misleading and confusing. For example, when explaining what your church offers, rather than using words like fellowship or ministry, you can use more familiar words like connection and support.
#3 Foster Relationships
Another way to build a partnership is to foster, or invest in, the relationship. An easy way to do this is to find out about the needs of the organization and how you (your church) may be able to offer practical support.
You can offer help by:
- Meeting with those interested in exploring faith communities
- Helping with tangible needs (transportation, donations, meals)
It’s also important to note that community services are in the business of meeting the community’s needs. By accepting their services you are building trust.
They can help you by:
- Being available for consultation
- Offering team training on their specialty.
Not only will these relationships strengthen your church body, but you will also grow in your influence and impact. For example, a church that has a trained usher team can partner with the city for special events. A youth leader can sit at the table when school discusses how to support students through a tragedy, the hospitality team can partner in organizing meals for community members in need, or your card ministry can partner with senior programs that reach out to those isolated.
There are hundreds of ways that your church can partner with organizations in the community and by doing so you are welcomed to the table and your church will become known for being community-minded, and care-focused.
The free download 3 Steps to Building a Sustainable Care Ministry is packed with helpful information and strategies on how you can:
Step 1. Leverage your community partners.
Step 2. Build a volunteer care team.
Step 3. Developing a training strategy.
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