HOW PEOPLE ACCESS CARE SUPPORT
In Episode 59, I went into detail about how people access care support. They do so through 5 different methods:
- Self Care
- Community Care
- Peer Care
- Expert Care
- Professional or clinical care.
So often we think that care is only offered by experts only or by clinicians like mental health professionals. But actually, only some or a few people require that level of support. Self, community, and peer care are more commonly received.
For instance, here’s a question for parents. When you first had your kids did you primarily seek out the support of professionals, like early childhood educators or midwives, or the clinicians like pediatricians?
You likely your relied on your instincts or sought out the advice of your peers. When you think about it. You likely daily relied on these informal supports daily, whereas you relied on professional supports monthly or even less.
In church, we often think that when people come to us for help we need to only refer them to specialists, forgetting that the church can offer a tremendous amount of care in the self, community, and peer levels.
Connecting people to professional support is highly recommended where needed, but relegating care to simply connecting to professionals in your church is missing a huge opportunity.
It’s about building a culture of care, rather than programs of care.
Care happens anytime your church is intentional in building a safe community for people to belong to, strengthening a person’s gifts, identity, and purpose, and offering hope.
12 WAYS A CHURCH CAN OFFER CARE OUTSIDE THE TRADITIONAL WAYS OF CARE MINISTRY
In this episode, I want to identify 12 ways your church can offer care outside of the traditional methods of care ministry.
Most churches have greeters at the doors welcoming people as they arrive at your church.
What if you take greeting to the next level and when you see that someone is attending alone you ask if they would like to sit with you?
How powerful would it be if you were new to the community that you went to a church and on the first week you met someone and sat with them?
You could even take it a step further.
Many churches have a “plan your visit” option on their website. What if a greeter reached out ahead of time and asked if they could save them a seat with them?
It’s so much nicer being able to have a friendly face meeting you rather than coming alone. This is being intentional at creating a safe community for someone to immediately feel like they belong to. This is care
Having a parking team is becoming more and more popular. This is a great entry-level volunteer opportunity for those who are new to faith or perhaps struggling with hopelessness, mental health, or addiction.
Being part of a team reinforces community, and helps people develop meaning in being a part of something bigger than themselves. A parking team also has an opportunity to care for others.
I had a conversation with someone a few months ago and they identified that walking through the parking lot was a big stressor for them. Despite having no visible disability or wheelchair parking privileges they were unsteady on their feet and so they were nervous about falling. Plus they had had a traumatic experience in a parking lot and walking through the cars was difficult for them.
The parking team isn’t the first thought when you consider care. But this is an opportunity to care safe environment and anticipate people’s needs.
This can be done by having a valet parking, or a specialized parking location close to the building that doesn’t require a wheelchair sticker.
To make this an outreach opportunity the parking team could lead a ride-share program or offer shuttles to and from senior buildings, or low-income areas.
Again this is not traditional care, but such an impactful way to offer care
3. Cafe Team
I will continue to say that Sunday morning teams are not just about making Sunday happen and serving others. But they also provide a community for people to belong to and receive support from.
Encourage your teams to get to know one another. Build trust in your teams so that teams are a place of authentic community and connection.
Many churches have some sort of version of a cafe team. Maybe it’s coffee and cookies, or a full-fledged cafe. Either way, I can guarantee that there are people in your church or nearby community that are struggling with food insecurity.
Rather than freezing the coffee, I recommend donating the leftover food from your cafe or creating takeaway boxes may provide breakfast, or school lunches for families struggling with food insecurity.
This is a real practical option for churches to care.
4. Usher Team
With a little investment, you can create spaces that are suited for those with additional needs. Then offering simple training for your usher team to welcome people to these inclusive spaces.
From my experience, ushers welcome people, assist in finding a seat, and provide some security. Ushers are trained to watch, assess and meet needs.
These are the same skills needed to assist those with additional needs.
Many people struggle with crowds, loud environments, dark rooms, or places with lots of stimuli.
If a church has an alternative spot for people to participate that is better suited to those with additional needs, ushers can use the same assessment skills in offering or welcoming people to use this location.
This location could be in the foyer, or a separate room close by. Many churches have a nursing mom’s room, but what about creating a space for those with other hidden needs? It could be as simple as setting up a grouping of chairs in the foyer.
Ushers can welcome people to use these spaces thereby creating a safe place for people to feel like they belong.
5. Tech Team
I have had conversations with leaders about what qualifies as branding, culture, and meeting people’s expectations when they show up to your church. However, 13% or about 30 million people in the US alone have hearing loss in both ears.
If you are known for incredible worship I can see how it might be hard to change and adapt for those who struggle with hearing.
But what about some simple solutions, like the previous example of having a space with lower stimuli or even having something simple like including captions on at least one screen?
This is a simple modification that cares for the needs of many in your church and allows those with hearing loss to participate in the community.
This is a non-traditional method to create opportunities for people to be part of a community and offer care.
6. Prayer Requests
Most churches have an opportunity for people to submit prayer requests. This is a core function of the church. But many churches don’t see these requests as an opportunity to strengthen belonging, purpose, and hope. They simply exist in a public form or are sent out to the prayer chain.
You know I’m all about being intentional and strategic. I would recommend that you link these prayer requests to your software and utilize email and text automation to send people follow-up emails. My church uses Text-In-Church to follow up with multiple emails after someone sends in a text.
In emails, you can send things like encouraging scriptures, and supportive texts and even request testimonials or ask if additional support are needed.
Now this one is more typical of a care ministry, but I think it pushes most churches to go further with offering care rather than just prayer.
7. Sermon or Message
A very simple way to create a safe community, and offer hope is to talk about struggles from the pulpit.
Things like mental health, addiction, grief, and relationship conflicts can be difficult to talk about on a Sunday morning because you are wanting to offer an encouraging message that everyone can relate to.
But let me challenge you that everyone can relate to these issues and you can talk about this stuff from a Biblical perspective that is encouraging.
For example, I’ve created a resource call Mental Health Sunday which is a Plug’n’Play resource for your church to use to talk about mental health on a Sunday.
It has everything you would need in a free downloadable resource.
Talking about mental health reduces stigma and gives people hope and tools they can use for self-care.
If you don’t know where to start in talking about mental health on a Sunday I recommend checking out mentalhealthsunday.com
8. Team Appreciation
When we think of who needs care we think of those outside your church or those who are not part of your core volunteers.
But I can guarantee that those on your core team are among those who need care.
In the busy-ness of church, we can easily fall into the habit of only connecting with our volunteers when we need something.
However, I encourage you to plan regular opportunities to value your volunteers and connect with them and extend opportunities to care.
It can be exhausting to appear like you have it all together, so having opportunities to be authentic in one-on-one or small group settings is very refreshing
I’m almost certain that some part of your church’s mission includes making disciples. I mean it is a clear directive to make disciples.
I feel that the process of growing with people is both care and discipleship-making.
Care happens wherever there is belonging, purpose and hope. Discipleship is mentorship, coaching, and essentially walking with people as they grow.
Strengthening a person’s purpose can look like walking with them as they discover who they are in Christ, and their spiritual gifts and equip them to walk them out.
Mentorship happens through discipleship and is very parallel to care.
I have walked through hundreds of church websites and there have been maybe a dozen churches that have a clear process on how people can receive care on their website.
I’m not talking about building any more care opportunities, but simply communicating about your current care opportunities are and making it accessible to people.
Most times I am finding that seeking care is buried in a sub-menu, hidden in a members-only page, covertly described, or pushes people to a broken link or back to an info@ email that doesn’t get answered.
I know because I’ve tried on many of your websites.
If we want the church to be known for its love, for its care for the community then we need to make it accessible for people to access.
11. Partnering with organizations
The church can’t meet every need. There are just too many but you can dramatically expand your impact without starting anything new by partnering with community organizations.
I created a free resource called 3 Steps to Building a Sustainable Care Ministry and the first step is building community partnerships. In this downloadable guide, I offer more details on how to build partnerships and there is a template that identifies many different types of community resources that you can access.
With community partnerships, you immediately multiply your ability to care.
12. Training your current teams
Sorry, not sorry for repeating the value of seeing your teams as mini-care networks, but I think this is a missed opportunity.
Your teams become almost like a small group. They gather together regularly, share life experiences and they work together to reach others.
So, I think by offering training for your already existing teams on how to care for one another you are shifting from programs of care to having a culture of care.
Rather than people looking to the pastor as the only caregiver, they begin to care for each other.
You don’t always need to start new initiatives to increase care, but you can equip your current volunteer with learning skills
Of course, I want churches to be as intentional in care as they are with small groups and other church ministries, but I understand that some churches don’t have the capacity and resources right now.
So I hope that these 12 ideas spark some ideas and creativity in how to build a culture of care rather than depend on programs of care.
CONNECT WITH HOPE MADE STRONG
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.