By Kristin Schultz
God calls us as Christians to care ministry. He calls us to care for the sick, the hurting, the poor, the lonely, the downtrodden, and the stranger. We are called to care for all of God’s creation that is suffering in a world broken by sin.
Over the last year and a half, we as church and ministry leaders have seen more people needing care than ever before. Numerous surveys and reports show that mental health issues have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many who were already suffering from disease saw their conditions deteriorate faster than normal, like those with Alzheimer’s Disease.
We have also seen an awakening among God’s people, and those who are able have stepped up to provide care to those in need. Volunteers and professionals have volunteered their time and skills to help those who desperately need it.
We need to care for those in our midst—those in our churches. We read in Acts how the disciples organized and cared for each other (2:24). In the epistles, Paul tells fledgling churches how they are to love and treat each other.
But we must also care for those who have never approached our doors. Jesus healed strangers, including the guard in Gethsemane who lost his ear to Peter’s sword. Jesus ministered to outcasts and foreigners who had never visited a synagogue.
Expanding your care ministry from within your congregation and into the community takes preparation and planning, but when the Holy Spirit leads, the Gospel mission is surely accomplished.
Evaluate Your Current Programming
To expand your ministry implies that you are already caring for people in a particular way. Make a list and discuss with ministry leaders the ways in which your church is already ministering. There may be programs already in place that you did not realize existed.
Once you have identified your current ministries, evaluate their effectiveness. You want to build from strength, not weakness. Look to expand programs that are well-established and organized. If you have new programs or leaders, wait to expand until the programs are established and the leaders are ready for greater responsibility.
Evaluate Your Personnel
Even the most beloved ministries can suffer from lack of participation. If your current care minister is part-time, do they have the capacity—and do you have the budget—to take on more responsibilities? Perhaps you need to encourage more people to get involved or to raise more funds.
Evaluate Your Church’s Passions
Every church has a natural inclination toward a group of people in need. Perhaps your church has a heart for immigrants, the homebound or elderly, or maybe children in crisis situations. Harnessing your congregation’s natural passion will help ensure that expansion is well-supported—in funding, resources, and prayer.
Evaluate Your Community’s Needs
Demographics in your community may have changed in the last 18 months. Some people may have moved out while others have moved in. Talk to your municipal leaders, schools, and nonprofit organizations to gauge your community’s current needs to see how you might meet those needs.
Also, be aware of other churches or organizations that are already doing what you feel called to do. Duplicating efforts not only can waste time, but it’s confusing for those seeking help. If it makes more sense to add to somebody else’s initiative, consider coming alongside that ministry rather than starting a ministry from scratch.
Some organizations may ask for monetary assistance. It is up to you to determine if a monetary gift is appropriate. We rightly think of care as a personal relationship and connection but caring for someone’s physical needs like rent or food is still caring. Decide if expanding your care ministry includes a benevolence fund. Fundraising for a specific need in the community can be an easy way to care if you lack the manpower to provide in-person care.
Once you have determined your church’s capacity to expand its care reach and have identified needs in your community, get going! Encourage staff or volunteers to set up meetings with organizations where you intend to help. Establish relationships, organize volunteers and resources, make a schedule, and ask your church to get involved as it feels called.
Ask the Lord for guidance and wisdom as you look to reach out. Your prayer will not go unanswered.
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