By Fran Trascritti
When it comes to caring for others in the church, efficiency doesn’t always mean effectiveness. In fact, it can mean the opposite.
Let me give an example: I have 1,718 Facebook friends, and with a click of a mouse and a few keystrokes, I can post a message or a picture that a sizable number of them will see. But did I really interact with them? Did I have quality conversations? Not a chance.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul wrote, “We were gentle among you, as a nurse nurtures her own children.” He knew it was crucial to the church that believers were cared for.
The same is true for us today: Relationships take time, and the process of nurturing isn’t fully accomplished with one email, text, or even a phone call. It’s done with consistent, regular personal contact and follow-up.
And it takes plenty of people to carry out such a care ministry in the context of the local church.
This is why church leaders can’t do it all—and for that matter, neither can a select few volunteers. Instead, it takes the whole church to care for the whole church.
Even more, an effective care ministry goes together with discipleship. When members effectively care for one another, the pastoral staff can focus on the ministry of preaching and teaching the Word.
Second, a care ministry that actively involves members allows them to do the work of service that they are called to do (Ephesians 4:12). Therefore, it’s nothing but positive when a large part of the church is involved.
That said, here are some ideas to help get you to be more effective in this important ministry:
1. Bring in the group ministry.
Most Sunday School classes or Bible study groups have one or two people who have taken on the care for their group members. These servants can be great wells of information, so it makes sense to have all group care servants come together once in a while to exchange ideas, plan strategy, and communicate needs.
Besides, it’s a natural fit for the group ministry to be involved in the care ministry in terms of both outreach and inreach.
2. Include the deacons.
Care ministry can be messy, time consuming, and difficult. It involves love and a commitment to sharing and showing that love in any circumstance.
If your church has deacons, they’re called to the ministry of people, and involving them in the care ministry helps them to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
3. Involve the family.
Ministry is best done as a team, and even more so when families are involved.
Involving the families in your congregation in the care ministry can be a blessing to all—even (especially) if it means little hands making personalized cards to send out.
4. Depend on prayer.
Nothing in the name of Jesus should be done without a dependence on Jesus. Care ministry is often done where spiritual battles are being fought.
Prayer is not an option, but an essential, and there are probably prayer warriors in the church who would be thrilled to pray for the care ministry. Enlist some of them to be a part of your ministry through prayer.
5. Always have a study guide.
For those who visit, be sure they have a study guide available from their study groups.
For example, the Daily Discipleship Guide, available in all three LifeWay ongoing lines of curriculum (Bible Studies for Life, Explore the Bible, and The Gospel Project), has a five-day devotion for each week. Leaving such a valuable discipleship tool in the hands of someone who received care is helpful and connects them directly to the ongoing group ministry.
6. Train your congregation to listen.
James tells us that we are to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Often, people just want someone to talk to, and a good listener can make all the difference to them.
People involved in this care ministry can learn listening skills, and it would be wise to do some training on this topic to assist the team members.
7. Encourage the team.
As I mentioned earlier, a care ministry isn’t meant for one person to take on alone. Instead, using a team of gifted people fulfills the biblical concept to serve one another in love.
One good practice is to regularly affirm the workers. This could mean writing thank you notes, giving small gifts, or even holding a commissioning service for them as local missionaries.
Either way, the little things can mean so much.
These are only a few ideas, but the greatest principle at work here is that when a member is hurting, all should bear their burden (Galatians 6:2). Whether it’s regular attention for the sick, a concern for new believers, or be concerned for broken people in a broken world, the care ministry is a vital part of the church.
Involving your small groups, leaders, or even families in creative ways can be a blessing for you, the church, and the kingdom.