Today’s show is the one-year anniversary of the Podcast and I’m going to share some practical ways to create care systems that help manage the needs which flexible to serve the variety of different needs and complexity of issues.
Time flies, can’t believe it’s been 1 year already since starting the podcast. It’s been such a fun journey and I’ve met so many great guests and so many listeners.
And if you have ever had the thought oh, I would love to connect with Laura, please do. Jump on Facebook or Instagram and message me!
I love connecting with people and hearing what they are doing in their church to support their community. I am an extrovert so connecting with people fills me up.
In the last year, I have worked with churches from Seatle to Florida, up here in Canada, and down in Virginia and I have learned some incredible things from you.
I think what you are doing is amazing. You are supporting your team leaders, and congregations, doing some incredible community initiatives, and building networks of care through referral partnerships and collaborations.
It’s amazing to hear what the body of Christ is doing across North America to care for and support their people.
Podcast download: Care Protocol template
COMMON NEEDS AMONGST CARE COMMUNITIES
I have also heard about some common needs like
- Lack of resources
- Lack of systems to manage the demand.
HOW HOPE MADE STRONG CAN HELP
These are the top three needs that I hear from you and over the past year, this is how I have strived to meet those needs.
1) Loneliness and feeling isolated in the role of care
The major church is often outreach is focused so care for those inside your church is often separated. Now I recognize that care often includes local missions and outreach. But much of our time and energy is spent supporting those who are connected to the church in some way.
I have created a Facebook Care Ministry Community which is a place where you can connect with other people who are passionate about Jesus, Care, Mental health, and Building the Kingdom through support and care. If you haven’t joined the Facebook Group it is definitely a spot for you to join. Just look up Care Ministry Community and submit your request to join the group.
Feel free to come with your questions and ideas and you can hear from others around the world who are doing similar work as you. It’s such a great resource and way to feel the need of loneliness in your role of care in your local care.
2) Lack of resources
Resources often mean time and money and although I wish I could create time and money but obviously that’s not possible.
But by having the right tools and processes you can get results for less and you can become more efficient and that’s what I’m all about.
Having worked as a clinician in mental health as a social worker for 15 years, I am very aware that the needs of others are unending, there is suffering everywhere and so as ministry caregivers and directors we need to use tools and resources well so that we don’t become overwhelmed with the needs of others.
Here on the podcast, I hope to introduce a lot of different resources to help equip you and give you the tools you need to serve your church and community through guests on the show, or the solo episodes I like to share practical ideas on caring for yourself and others.
I also have created a couple of online courses like;
- The CareGiver Toolbox – This is a small course equipping lay leaders to support others and
- Finding Hope in Helping – This is a more comprehensive course for ministry leaders to overcome compassion fatigue and burnout.
I felt that there were gaps in these areas of accessible resources for you in the form of online courses.
3) The lack of processes or systems
This is probably the most common concern and as a result, in the past year, my 1-1 consulting with churches has really grown.
I have heard over and over again that while the needs are growing the volunteers and services are shrinking. The community resources are becoming harder to access with growing waitlists and a shortage of staff. This is leaving churches overcome with needs not knowing how to meet them and people falling through the cracks.
I have really focused on building processes in the last six months and this is where I want to hang out for this episode and possibly many more of my solo episodes because the need is so great.
How can we create a system and process in care ministry that help manage the needs, but is also flexible to serve the variety of different needs and complexity of issues?
How can we create a protocol or a process that is best practiced and adapts to our local churches?
And while I think I do not have all the answers, I think I have a very good suggestion that I believe would be tailored to your church community and this comes from years of project management training and building a church process in my local churches and supporting local churches in North America.
A CARE PROTOCOL
This is what I like to call a Care Protocol and no matter what the care is whether it is benevolence, bereavement, or motherhood it still follows 4 basic steps.
I’m going to walk you through each step and share exactly what we do at my church and how you can adapt it to your church. This is not meant to be prescriptive, meaning you have to follow these exact instructions.
It’s meant to be descriptive in that you can adapt and adjust to meet your church’s vision and your communities needs, and the resources that you have like software, team, and time capacity.
BENEFITS OF HAVING A CARE PROTOCOL
There are 5 benefits of having a care protocol;
- Staff and volunteers know what to do – there is clarity in people’s roles and responsibilities and the expectations of the care ministry.
- It decreases overwhelm /burnout – when you know the process or next step it feels like there are juggling less, and the volume of work feels more manageable
- People know what to expect – Consistency builds trust. I’ve had questions, why did that person get this support and my friend didn’t get that? When there is a consistent way of communicating and caring for people begin to believe you care and that you are doing something about it and there is no special treatment happening.
- Increases accountability and decreases risk – Unfortunately, our society is becoming more litigious and so we need to have ways to keep records and have accountability. By having a care protocol and process you become less vulnerable to legal issues.
- A system ensures people don’t fall through the cracks – having a consistent way of responding to care needs makes it easier to track needs, and outcomes and as a caregiver, you are more confident that people aren’t falling through the cracks.
THE 4-STEP CARE PROTOCOL
So here is the simple 4-step care protocol that I use in my church. It is a simple high-level overview of how every care need is addressed.
We need to receive the care needs because if we do not know the need, we cannot do anything about it. This is where knowing your community is very important and the method of communication is important. These can be via texts or groups however what is important is that all the requests are sent to a care coordinator.
For small churches, this is a role that can be included in other functions, but I find that in churches with over 500 people the time required may need a dedicated part-time or full-time role. When receiving a care need, there needs to be a consistent method of communicating needs. For my church it doesn’t matter if it’s a text, email, a note from guest services, or prayer request, it all goes to the care coordinator who completes a PCO form.
I have developed many forms for each unique need.1 form vs. many and I chose many because they all get directed to the care coordinator this is because I wanted to make it easy for people to engage and I only want to collect the necessary information. There is a clear understanding that all care needs go to one person, and in my church, it is the care coordinator.
The care coordinator triages and refers to the most appropriate person.
Once the care coordinator triages and refers the need, there is a response to it.
How you respond to a need is unique to your church, community and skill set you to have access to. I have created flow charts or pathways for almost every care need so whether it’s a birth, death, prayer request, meal, 1-1 support, or spiritual care, I know what the process is.
While needs are unique they often require similar patterns of care so by mapping these out I know that when there is a death we follow these steps (at minimum) so there is continuity of care and I can manage my workload.
This is probably the most often overlooked step as every response needs to be recorded.
As a clinician, I was told if I don’t write it down it didn’t happen and I should always write my notes imagining them being viewed on a big screen in court. While this isn’t necessarily the reality of the church care team I think there is some wisdom we can take from this.
In most churches, we work as a team. The Pastor may meet with the family after a death, but the youth leader will speak to the teens about their loss and then the meals coordinator is delivering the meals and chat with the family on the front step. As a result the right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing however this can be avoided by keeping a record of each touch point.
In my church, we use Planning Center and I created care note categories that manage who can access them so confidentiality can be maintained. If you don’t use planning center then google drive is a great alternative.You are able to have different folders and manage privacy.
While ministry caregivers are not clinicians I still think we can have high standards in record keeping. The benefits are huge and it only takes a moment to note each scenario that happened.
All care requests require some follow-up and closure even those requests that cannot be supported.
By follow-up I mean there is closure, this can be through email, text, or phone calls among others. At my church, there are three care engagements that are automated so that a personalized response is not required. This reduces workload while offering a high level of care. Those three times are when prayer requests are submitted online, when someone is a first-time guest, and when someone responds electronically to a salvation call.
In each of these automations we invite people to engage and then we can have a unique response especially when someone accepts Jesus our goal is to link them to a faith coach who can walk alongside them in those beginning weeks of their faith journey.
For other needs outside prayer requests and accepting salvation follow-up timelines and responses will vary for example when there is a new birth the pathway we created includes the children’s pastor and the volunteer mom’s group leader. Not every need has to be addressed by the pastor or even the care coordinator.
High-level care protocols and individual situations will vary in how you offer care, but every opportunity for care includes these four steps. This ensures consistency and that fewer people fall through the cracks, and creates a process that helps to become overwhelmed with needs.
I’ve outlined these steps in the free download below and also include common “do’s and don’ts for care.
Do’s like maintaining confidentiality, unless duty requires it. Only share what is absolutely necessary with those in and Don’ts like Judgment, invasive questions, or shame-based language in any encounter, promising support(emotional, financial, service), confidentially, secrecy, or special treatment
Having a 1-page document like this is a great way to communicate the care process with your staff and leadership team. It’s simple yet, identifies the core needs by sending all care needs to one person, offering support consistently, keeping notes and a report, and ensuring there is follow-up.
I hope this download is useful to you and your team. Having a care protocol or a process that you use is helpful for you and it helps you manage the workload, it helps your team so they know what care is being offered and it helps your church community because people feel that they don’t fall through the cracks and there is follow-up.
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