Laura Howe 0:02
From Hope Made Strong, this is The Care Ministry Podcast, a show about equipping ministry leaders and transforming communities through care. Supporting those in your church community not only changes individuals lives, but it grows and strengthens the church but we want to do that without burning out. So listen in, as we learn about tools, strategies and resources that will equip your team and strengthen hope.
I'm Laura Howe, and welcome to The Care Ministry Podcast. I am so excited to connect with you today and talk about how we can offer care strategically in our local churches.
It has been my experience that care has not always been approached as an opportunity to grow the church and make the disciples. I would say this is a huge missed opportunity. My goal is to be part of a movement that sees care ministry as an essential part of the local church, and that it is approached with intentionality and with strategy.
Care, unfortunately, is often more thought of as an obligation to the congregation that is reactionary, without clear leadership, vision and intentionality. But back in episode 69, I talk about making a case for care. And I outlined five ways that care ministry strengthens your church. So if you're listening today, and you're trying to decide if care, investing and care or or developing a care ministry is for you, then I encourage you to go back to Episode 69 and check it out.
But in this episode, I am assuming that you already know that care is valuable and is important and you want to approach your care ministry with strategy and intentionality.
So in this episode, I introduced the model of care that I think is really valuable, and it will help you have a lens and a strategic approach to offer care ministry.
When we look at other ministries in the church, things like small groups or youth guest services or actually even worship, you're gonna likely find that there is an intentional plan, there's process and strategy to build and connect with people.
There's leadership overseeing this and a vision and mission moving forward. Very few churches approach care in this way but I would love to see every single church have an intentional plan, process and strategy to build and connect with people through care and have and have that intention to build disciples and strengthen the kingdom.
But because care has been considered reactionary, or response after the fact, after the need arises, it's been really difficult to think about, okay, how can we build a strategy around care, when we don't know what needs are coming up, or we don't know who is going to need it, or how many people and and what is, you know, we can't tell the future.
And while we will continue to respond need to respond to needs after tragedy and suffering and you know, we can only respond once we know what the need is. That's just the nature of life. But I think by considering the model of care, and how people access care, I think we're able to be more strategic about how your church offers support to it's congregation and community and as a result your church is going to be cool is going to be strengthen and grow.
In the show notes, I offer a PDF download of the model of care that I'm going to share. And I recommend that you go to the show notes at hopemadestrong.org/episode 77 and download and print off the model of care as I think this is going to be a great help as you plan out and consider your care ministry. And I also think it's going to be helpful because the model of care is like an infographic. It's a it's an image or a picture and so even if you're just listening to this, just clicking on the show notes briefly to be able to see the image I think this episode will make a lot more sense.
So when I asked leaders and volunteers, how they offer care to those in their church and community, I received some typical answers. There's prayer or financial support, like benevolence, care is often offered in small groups, and and refers to professional counseling and these are phenomenal. These are great, I love them.
Prayer is the foundation of our faith and I absolutely believe that is the foundation of our care ministries and financial support has been life-changing for so many people in your church and community. But let's be honest, it's often just a bandaid for long standing issues, and, and problems.
And then small groups. These are one of my favorite tools for offering care. I think it is a really awesome strategy but when I talk to small group leaders, they often say that they don't feel equipped to support people, and they eventually just refer on to the pastors who've men likely refer on to professional counselors. And I don't want to knock this approach of referring to a pastor or a professional, I would much rather have a church refer to these services rather than minimize or shame or sweep under the rug issues that people are really genuinely struggling with that are deep-rooted and, and are impactful and require these, you know, higher levels of support.
However, as we all know, or as I think we all know, the professional or clinical supports in our communities are maxed out, they often have waitlists or they're not even accepting new clinic clients. Now, in my hometown, to find a counselor, you need to pay either very expensive fees, hope that you connect with the counselor that your insurance company gives you, or be on a waitlist for several months, like six, nine, ten months and I know that I cannot be the only community experiencing this. And so when people come to the church looking for help, and we redirect them to professional services, they are often lost are actually never able to connect or access the support that they're requiring, either they don't have the funds, they don't connect with the counselor, or they just get lost on a waitlist.
And the model of care that I want to show you is a great way for the for the church to think strategically or preventatively in how we can support people for care, not minimizing accessing professional support, but supporting or building a stronger foundation or preventative strategies so that people can access care in different levels.
The model of care that I'm about to show is actually an image, it's a, if you can picture with me, an upside down triangle split into five horizontal sections. So with the point at the bottom and the broad side of the triangle at the top, and there are lines splitting up the triangle horizontally in creating five different sections. And at the bottom right at the tip of the triangle is where I would put professional services not at the top, it's not our first line of defense, but it's actually at the bottom at the very tip and this is because there are the fewest amount of services or clinicians available and so therefore, it's the smallest section of the whole model of care.
Now, if everyone was directed to seek professional support as their primary access for for care, for support, there wouldn't ever be enough clinicians to support them. That option or that model of going to seek professionals for all our all our issues. It's just not sustainable and we're setting people up for failure.
Research actually tells us that if people belong to a church, and they are actually more likely to seek support through that church rather than professional or clinical services. This is describing that people trust their pastors and feel more comfortable talking to someone that they're familiar with. So as a church, we need to think strategically and how we offer care for people. Absolutely, we need to refer to professional services. But as I was sharing the model of care, there are four other methods that people receive care and like I said, this model of care is shown as an upside down triangle split up into five sections with professional support at the bottom and this is a picture to represent how people access care.
So let's talk about the other four sections starting at the top, the top and largest section, or the most accessible support is actually self-care and when we are looking at how people access care, we often forget about self-care, even though it is accessible to everyone and is often the first line of defense or the most common way people care for themselves or tend to their needs.
When you're having a rough day or you're feeling overwhelmed or you're stressed to the max, you are able to self-soothe. You do things for yourself to decompress, relax, overcome struggles, we apply things or we or we do activities that we have learned help us things like we go to the gym, take a bath, read a book, drink a hot tea, go to bed early, listen to music, do something creative, take up a hobby, these are small things that we do to care for ourselves and tend to our needs and as a church, we are able to support people by building out the self-care tools or practices, for example, in sermons, Bible studies or leadership development, or maybe it's even resources on your website. We can teach and train about self-care things like Sabbath forgiveness, rest, meditation of the word stewardship, who we are in Christ, that our bodies are the temple. There are so many practices or trainings that we can provide to our people that help them strengthen their self-care strategies.
This will really help people build that tools and practices so that they are better equipped to use this first line of defense when they are struggling. Care offered from your church doesn't always have to be reactionary but we can help people develop self-care practices and tools as a prevention strategy for when they are struggling. The second section of the model of care is community. Most people, not everyone, but most people have access to some sort of community. Now that could be a club, a group, team, friends, family,
I don't know what it is, it could be anything and when people engage with that community, they're supported. Even if no one shares their needs, or their thoughts or feelings or seeks out a conversation with someone finding, trying to find support, just belonging to a community, where you are known and accepted is valued and is a huge support.
I know when I'm going through a difficult time connecting with friends are going to my book club or are volunteering to help you know, the community really encourages me and fills me up and so community is an area where the church excels. We are fantastic at building community. We greet people by name at the door, we come together for a common purpose and outreach or admissions. There are people who will know and look out for me and accept me and this is such a beautiful thing and creates so much wrap-around care.
When we think of care ministry, we don't often think about the actual volunteer teams, things like greeters, ushers, parking lot attendants and cafe teams. But it's the intentional care offered by these people, that creates the community culture, having an easy onboarding process for volunteers, or opportunities for people to be part of a team that doesn't require, you know, this huge commitment or even membership is a great way for the church to care for people through developing community.
Now, so many churches require membership or, or even a belief in Christ to be a part of a team but if you are able to create opportunities for people to be part of a community engaged in a team, even before they believe, then man, you are going to hook them and create so much care and support that they will make that transition and they will give their lives to Lord because this community is so unique and no other organization, no other system is quite like what the church can offer and so I really encourage churches to think strategically about their teams, and about the community that they're building, and create opportunities for people to join at a very early stage so that they can receive the care like that's offered in community.
Now, the first section was self-care. The second is community care. Now the third section is peers, the model of care is offering. The third section of the model of care is peer support. Now, my background is a clinical social worker working 15 years in the mental health and addiction center in Canada, I'm from Canada, and probably knew that from my accent, but the Canadian research is showing that they are much higher recovery outcomes for those who have both clinical and peer support, rather than just clinical alone.
An example of peer support is when I was a new mom, I had doctors, I had midwives I had community nurses available to me, but you know, who I went to, to find support from is from my friends and family, I would seek out the support of those who were a year or two or maybe even just a couple of months ahead of me in this motherhood journey because they have been there they have done that and I felt more comfortable talking with them than I would with a professional nurse like or a doctor or my midwife.
Peers are those who have lived experience of the hardship that you are facing. Perhaps that's an addiction, mental health. Someone who went through a divorce, grief, surviving teenagers, single parenting or, or maybe it's, you know, going through the cancer recovery journey, really anything where the person has overcome hardship, and they have the skills to listen and support others these are peers or or maybe you want to call them mentors, and peers is often a missed opportunity in the church.
Our churches are so full of people who have overcome tremendous hardship. These are people who have so much wisdom and can offer support as part of the care team. Now when you think of peers and mentors, those who are going to coach others, we often think of those who are gone through life. They're in their 60s they're happily married they are successful on the outside and, and I think that we lose sight that diversity is a strength.
I really encourage churches to look for those who have come from different history, different culture, different experiences, all genders and all ages and have a variety of experiences. Really and peer support,diversity is an asset, as long as the person has the maturity to maintain ethical standards and confidentiality, because if you were a single mom and you're wanting to connect with another person to talk about your issues, you're not going to want to talk to a happily married 60-year-old couple who has a business know that you can't relate to them, you want to talk to other people who have been there, done that that is the value that is the power behind peer support.
So I really encourage to for churches to look for diversity when you're when you're training, peers and mentors. Now peers don't offer pastoral counseling, and they don't offer therapy. They offer a listening ear and an understanding of what the person has gone through or is going through. I encourage churches to engage mentors and peers and offer support to their fellow congregants. This engages and develops leaders in the peers and offers more accessible support from someone who truly understands the struggles.
Now, the fourth section of the model of care, or how care is accessed is Experts. These are individuals who have a more specialized training, but are not registered professionals or clinicians. And I think of those who are coaches or experts in a narrow area and offer support for a specific problem, and people go to them looking for a specific outcome.
This section is further down on the triangle and represents that not everyone needs to access experts and there are fewer experts available than peers, but likely still more than that fifth area of professionals. In the context of the church, pastoral care would fall into this category. Pastors are experts in biblical insights and offer support to those who are looking for a solution or support for a specific problem and this differs from clinical support, where sometimes they are very clinical supports are often open ended and people may discuss a variety of issues.
When I do training, and speak with individual churches, I often hear that pastors and staff are absolutely overwhelmed with requests for pastoral care and if this is the case, I think it's really strategic and helpful to have an intake process to help people identify the specific needs that they have, and what is their specific desired outcome.
Now I talk more about the intake process and Episode 61, called How to Get the most out of a pastoral care meeting and so you're definitely going to want to check that out if this is a strategy you want to jump onto because I think it's really valuable to ensure that the requests for pastoral care are appropriate.
For example, if people are looking for more like a walk along guidance or support as they journey through an issue, the care offered by a peer might be a better, a better fit, or it might be better suited for a peer. Or if a person has a stroke has struggled in multiple areas of their life, like their marriage or addiction or their mental health or trauma, or they require medication or a diagnosis. This is better suited for professional like a case manager or a doctor or therapist and back in episode 28, I talked about when it when you how do you know when it's a good time to refer.
So that is helpful for those who are in pastoral care to know when it's helpful to move on or refer them to a professional support. Pastoral or expert care is a wonderful way that we are able to support the church and care for the church. But sometimes it fills up with what could be better supported by peers, or it takes on what needs to be referred to professional supports.
So I think if we look at pastoral care, strategically, knowing that pastoral care is a as a short term support, or you know, maybe two to four sessions, identifying a specific need, where people know or have identify what their desired outcome is, this is a much better way to manage the needs or offer pastoral support and I think having an intake process is really valuable for this.
Now the fifth and final section of the model care is Professional Support, and while people will continue to need clinical support, it is much fewer than the other areas. This is why it's at the bottom of the triangle. The church can approach professional support strategically by partner with local clinicians or even engaged with organizations that offer virtual counseling across the country. There are also organizations that can partner with churches in offering subsidized care for their people. To be able to offer care strategically at your church and look at prevention strategies, it's really helpful to recognize that people access care for more than pastors and professionals.
They are supported through self-care, community belonging, and peer support as well. The church is able to offer care strategically, if it considers how to offer care at all levels.
So I really encourage you to grab that free download of the model of care that you can get in the show notes at hopemadestrong.org/episode 77. Thanks so much for listening, I really hope that we are able to create this momentum and and how we can offer care strategically rather than just reactionary. There are preventative ways or preventative training are tools that we can offer our people to help them face struggle.
My goal is that every church has an intentional care ministry that approaches care with strategy. For years care ministry has been an afterthought, but care has the opportunity to grow and strengthen your church.
So I hope you've enjoyed this episode and if you have, are you able to write a quick review of the podcast, having reviews helps other people find the podcast more easily and I would be very grateful because I know when I look at podcasts live reading their views helps me decide if this is a good fit for me so your review would make a difference for so many people.
Alright, thanks for connecting again and take care have a fantastic week.