On the episode this week we are going to be talking about the Role of the Church in Caring for People.
We are less than two weeks out from the Church Mental health Summit. The feedback has been incredible and as I’ve been sorting through the hundreds of emails I’m trying to track themes and requests for resources as I prepare for next month’s live call.
If you want to join the care community gathering, which is a live, but virtual call where we can connect together to collaborate and learn from one another go to hopemadestrong.org/community
One of the first themes I’ve noticed is that there has been an increase in leaders recognizing that their church is being looked to as a place for support and help.
Whether it’s mental health, addiction, housing, or relationship conflicts people are turning to the church for help.
This might be a no-brainer for some, but for others, this is a real shift in how they have engaged with their community.
With community and professional resources being maxed beyond capacity people are forced to lean on their informal support meaning their friends and family. It’s natural for people to turn to those they trust for support, and for a number of people that is their church and place of worship.
Clergy, ministry leaders, and small group facilitators are finding themselves supporting people through really difficult situations.
Unsure of how to manage this new-found situation I’m finding that many people are asking what is the church’s role, how can it better support people while honoring the limitations of their experience
HOW THE CHURCH FITS INTO THE BROADER SCOPE OF CARE
Back in episode 18, I talk about this and how the church fits into the broader scope of care.
So often when someone is struggling we encourage them to seek out professional help.and while that is sound advice and support. What happens when there is no professional help available?
What if waitlists full and there are no professional supports available, or there are financial barriers that limit any option for professional support?
The church needs to have better options than just referring people away.
MODEL OF CARE
In an ideal world, the individual struggling would be able to access care at all 5 levels of care.
The top level of the triangle the widest part represents everyone. In this top section, we have self-care. Everyone has the opportunity to engage in caring for themselves. We do this when we exercise, eat well, have hobbies, rest, and relax. These are things we do to care for our own well-being.
The next level is Community Care, the support we receive being part of a community, club, or network of people are safe and we feel we belong.
The third level of care, where the funnel or triangle starts to narrow, meaning that fewer people access this type of care, is peer support. This is care received by others who have been through similar situations. It’s the coffee shop chats, walks, lunches, and meetings with friends, or mentors who they can receive support from.
The fourth level is experts, these are non-clinicians who have expertise in a specific area. Nutrition, employment coaching, pastoral support. These people are trained and skilled in a specific area. Support from these experts is focused on a specific goal you have and are time limited.
Then the final section and the most narrow part of the triangle is professional or clinical care. This is most narrow because the fewest people access this level of care, but also there are fewer people offering this level of care.
This model of care demonstrates that most people access care from many more ways than just professional.
When your church’s only response to people who are struggling is to tell them to seek professional support you are missing four other levels of care that can be offered by the church.
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH
Traditionally, care in the church is seen in three different ways.
- Pastoral care
- Prayer teams
And while these are fantastic methods of care, and prayer is a powerful weapon. Limiting care to these three options would be a huge missed opportunity.
I shared a session at the Summit this year called building cultures of care, not programs of care and I want to challenge you to consider this idea of culture of care.
As I describe those 5 levels of care self, community, peer, expert, and professional, I’m sure that you could easily identify different ways your church offers care in each of these categories.
For example, your church can promote good self-care from the pulpit as you teach about of sabbath, forgiveness, the body is the temple, and who people are in Christ. Then the listeners utilize these teachings in their personal lives.
The second level is Community where you create safe places where people belong to a community.
We then have Peer Support where we have small groups, prayer teams, mentors, and discipleship opportunities.
Then Experts like pastors and leaders who are available for support within their areas of expertise.
And finally Professional, as a church you are able to refer to professional supports and decrease stigma in accessing clinical treatment.
Care isn’t just casseroles. The church can offer care at every level.
It’s like God knew what he was doing when he identified that it is the local church is that will reach people.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN AND HOW IT RELATES TO THE CHURCH
Luke 10 is the story of the Good Samaritan, just to jog people’s memory this parable comes right after Jesus answer’s a law expert’s question that in order to inherit eternal life he needs to love God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind and love his neighbour as himself.
Jesus used the story of the Samaritan to describe who would be considered his neighbour.
As we are familiar the story describes a man who got robbed, beaten up, and left for dead while traveling. While he laid at the side of the road two important and distinguished men walked by him without offering any help.
Then a third man, a Samaritan, a people group that traditionally was viewed poorly by the elite, stopped and brought the man to an in-keeper and paid for his care.
After sharing this story Jesus asks Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who robbed and and beat. Obviously the answer is the one who had mercy on him and Jesus answered that we are to do likewise.
This is a common story in Children’s ministry with great lessons to be learned.
And from my child like perspective I assumed that I was the central figure in the story.
I needed to save and rescue those less fortunate, I’m going to look beyond stigma and reach down and pick-up up those left beaten by our society.
But then I heard this story shared in a new way and completely rocked my world.
Rather than me being the central figure to the story, the star of the show, the one to rescue and save others, instead of this self absorbed approach to the story. Let’s rethink that and put Jesus at the centre. Jesus as the one who rescued us, Jesus as the one who crossed cultural and social barriers to pay the cost of our healing.
He is who we are striving to be so if Jesus is the Samaritan, who are we in the story?
We are to be the innkeepers. Jesus saves us, rescues us from death, and despair, and pulls us up from a place of shame and he has created the church to care for those who are hurt and healing.
The story of the Good Samaritan is a beautiful picture of the role of the church in supporting people.
It is Jesus who saves, and he has asked the church to care for people while He is gone.
In Luke 10:34- 35, it says “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and asked the inn keeper to care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, Take Care of him, and whatever more you spend I will repay you when I come back.“
My perspective of this parable has shifted. I’m no longer the Samaritan but I am the inn keeper.
Jesus, saves, binds wounds and he restores identity, and takes away shame.
We the Church are the innkeeper. We are commissioned to take care of the wounded and aid in their healing.
The church can’t be all things to all people but the church has a role to play in supporting people.
Care is more than casseroles. Care is being a safe place. A community, for people to discover their value and purpose and to receive hope.
The church has a responsibility to care for and tend to people as they heal.
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Join the Church Mental Health Facebook Group! In the Facebook group, we chat about how to care for others, what are your challenges as well as share tons of resources. This is a great community of pastors, clinicians, and those with lived experience and we want to get to know you.