Why caregiving is fuel for ‘church growth’

By the Rev. Dr. BENJAMIN PRATT
Author of The Guide for Caregivers

Benjamin Pratt cover Guide for Caregivers

CLICK the cover to visit the bookstore.

When I talk to groups of clergy and lay people, many of them are surprised to hear that expanding their caregiving ministries is in their own self interest. It’s true!

Most often, I’m talking to Christian groups, where “church growth” is always a No. 1 concern. But, the principles I share with groups (and in my book) are effective in fueling “congregational growth” in general. So take today’s column to heart, as well, if you are part of a synagogue, temple or mosque.

Here’s a prime example: On a recent Saturday morning, I helped to present a public forum drawing on my book, A Guide For Caregivers. A United Methodist congregation hosted the event and promoted it to the interfaith community and the general public. Weary caregivers from all parts of the community gratefully attended—and kept the interchange going more than an hour longer than planned! Tears and laughter flooded the room as we all shared our different stories.

Gratitude to the United Methodist church for hosting this event was effusive. Members of that congregation told me that they were getting involved in this kind of outreach because they realized they have been under-serving the needs of caregivers in their own community. They resolved to seek new and creative ways to support caregivers and care receivers.

Convince your congregation to get involved

For this special column, I invited friends to help me make the case that caregiving is, indeed, fuel for congregational growth.

ReadTheSpirit Editor DAVID CRUMM, this week, was the emcee of an annual one-day conference in southeast Michigan for religious and health-care leaders to hear from experts about the importance of collaborating on health and caregiving. One of the first questions David got from religious leaders was: How can we convince people that this is central to our religious mission?

United Methodist website on caregivers helping families of disabled veterans

CLICK this thumbnail image to visit a United Methodist website, where a recent article reports on the widespread needs of American families caring for disabled veterans. The denomination’s founder, John Wesley, taught that healthcare should be a high priority in congregational life.

David told the crowd …

“Anyone who tells you that our congregations aren’t in the business of health and wellness doesn’t know much about the history of the great Abrahamic faiths. Judaism and Islam have ancient codes for health and wellness. For Christians, Jesus spent more time on health concerns than almost any other issue. There wouldn’t be modern hospitals today without the mission of the Catholic church centuries ago. And United Methodists who hesitate to get involved? They should remember that their founder John Wesley (1703-1791) felt so strongly about meeting the health-care needs of parishioners that he wrote a medical handbook (published in 1747) to aid the countless families in his era who could not afford medical care.”

MARTIN DAVIS, a contributor to this online magazine and head of SLC: Sacred Language Communications, consults with congregations and often hears the objection: “I don’t have time for one more program!”

Martin sent these thoughts to share with you …

I hear that objection from overburdened church leaders, who are stressed and yet feel the pressure to add more ministries: feeding programs, energy programs, education programs, healthcare programs, music programs, outreach programs—and on and on. The problem comes when church leaders contemplate “programs” they must fund, support with volunteers and administer—rather than focusing on the core mission of their faith communities.

Health care is a prime example. The Parish Nursing movement is a good and powerful program that emerged in the 1970s that is today growing, especially among larger congregations with resources to hire parish nurses. But my message to congregations is: You don’t need to hire a parish nurse to provide care. Caregiving is as basic as “love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s that simple.

LDS Mormon website page on caregiving and disability resources

CLICK this thumbnail image to visit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website covering a wide range of disability concerns to help caregivers within the Mormon church. Within this website, individual pages look at common issues in various kinds of physical and mental health.

And, yes, energizing your congregation to take caregiving seriously also is complicated. That is … if you want to provide effective care and really touch lives in your community.

Over the years, I have been impressed by the way the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) incorporates many levels of caregiving into daily life in Mormon congregations. They accomplish this through several smart policies: 1. They keep their congregations (called wards) small, so that people get to know one another. 2. They stress that we are God’s hands and feet on earth as much as they stress the life to come. 3. They embrace the practice of genuinely caring for one’s neighbors, from regular home visits to assistance with job placement and even emergency stocks of food.

If a family member loses a job, the community knows and rallies to support that person—and their family—to right the ship. And if illness strikes, the community is there to provide whatever support is required. And, they do this without professional clergy or paid staff. They do this out of a commitment to one another born of a deep faith in God.

As I write this, you should know: I’m not Mormon myself and I’m not suggesting the LDS church is better than all others. But, I am suggesting that their orientation is solid: Faith in God animates action in this life, because we are the feet and hands of God on this earth.

Is caregiving fuel for “church growth”? Just look at the statistics on growth in the LDS church!

Care to read more?

KEEP IN TOUCH WITH WE ARE CAREGIVERS: Our online magazine regularly reports on caregiving issues, sharing ideas and inspiration from various authors and experts. Click on the link in the upper right corner for “updates by email” and be sure you are receiving our free email alerts to new stories. Among the past We Are Caregivers columns you’ll find useful:

BEST-SELLING AUTHORS URGE CONGREGATIONS TO GET INVOLVED: While you’re signing up for our email newsletters, be sure to get our weekly ReadTheSpirit newsletter, sent out each Monday afternoon. That way you won’t miss our trademark author interviews, which often touch on caregiving. Among our most popular author interviews on this subject:

(Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

 

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

Changing seasons; looming holidays: So much to do! Help?

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

WE need your help!

Please, read this column and contribute a tip—even a few words. Then, next week, I will compile our brightest ideas and provide a printable check list we all can use to get ready for this “new year” we are entering.

What new year?

Holidays comingHere’s how it unfolds in our household: My daughter runs cross country on her high school team. Last week started with a meet on Tuesday. The weather in Mid-Michigan? 92 degrees, sunny, and humid. Friday she ran again at the Michigan State Invitational in Lansing. As I was preparing to watch her meet—I was finding my winter coat and gloves to stand in 50 degrees, heavy clouds and wind.

Children are back in school; the weather is yo-yoing; the leaves are starting to change and the construction barrels are vanishing. Even if you don’t have students in your household, most employers have a big post-Labor-Day push. Before we know it the year-end holidays will be upon us.

Change is good—sometimes—but it can also be a challenge.

Here at WeAreCaregivers we are bringing together a community of readers who can help each through challenges that caregivers face. In that spirit, we are asking you to help us by offering some insight from your experience with caregiving.

Do you have a tip you could share for dealing with the coming changes in daily routines? Have you got tips for helping caregivers with the piles of leaves—and piles of snow—soon to come in many regions? How about an idea for making the holidays more enjoyable? Do you find that doing—or not doing—certain activities make life a lot easier?

SHARING TIPS:
SOME EXAMPLES

One thing that helps me is to take a few minutes to plan dinners for the week. It isn’t earth shattering, but it makes life better for all of us, especially at times when everyone’s schedule is in overdrive.

Are you part of a congregation starting a new fall-and-winter season? Looking for good ideas for your youth group? Are you part of a community-service group? Men’s group? Hospitality group? What ideas can you share for reaching out to caregivers in the coming seasons?

Here’s another example of a great tip: Organize volunteers to provide respite care for the caregivers in your community—so they each can have a holiday-shopping day free of their normal caregiving duties. Another example: Organize men and women who are handy with repairs to check out the wooden ramps at homes around your community. Any of your neighbors need help fixing a ramp so it’s sturdy for wet, icy and snowy weather?

I’m sure your mind already is whirring away …

HELP? HERE’S HOW:

We are going to pull together the tips you share with us. You don’t need to write a long note. A sentence or less is fine. We will take all of your fabulous advice and compile it for you to share next week. Together we will be better.

Add a comment below or email us at WeAreCaregivers@gmail.com

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized