Fostering a Culture of Care in the Church – Part 1
“Our people are hurting.”
“How can we equip our people to care for others?”
“Where do we even begin in trying to meet the needs of our people?”
These are common statements and questions I have encountered in conversations with pastors and ministry leaders across Canada.
It is no surprise to many of us that there is an ever-increasing demand to address the struggles, the sufferings and the sins that occur daily in the lives of others. The needs are overwhelming, the list is growing, and there is no end in sight.
If you are a pastor, ministry leader or a lay person in your church with a desire to help, I want you to know three things:
You are not alone – There are many who feel as you do, that something needs to change.
The problem is not insurmountable – We serve a gracious God supplies what we need.
This takes time – Fostering a culture of care is a long-term project.
If you are a pastor or leader in your church, let me first say thank you for your desire to do something. I hope that you will find some help and encouragement here as you try to take the next step.
One of the first essential elements in fostering a culture of care in the church is to create a space for open dialogue. Life is messy and the Church is too. The Church should be the primary place where it is ok to share your hurts, struggles, and ask the hard questions. We should not shy away from inviting others to share their burdens – in fact it is a biblical mandate to create this environment (Gal. 6:2).
We also need to recognize that culture shifts start at the top; leaders must be willing to lead by example (1 Pet. 5:2-3). From the pulpit to private conversations, leaders can model vulnerability and openness in a way that encourages others to share their burdens and struggles. You don’t have to look far to see examples of how damaging it can be when church leaders pretend their lives are perfect.
Grow in Understanding
The second essential element is to educate yourself. Many of us intuitively know that the Bible speaks to the human experience, but it is often hard to link passages of Scripture to the words and issues that dominate our culture. We need the help of others who have done the hard work of examining current issues through a biblical lens so that we can speak in wisdom.
There are so many excellent books out there. Here are just a few suggestions to help you grow in your understanding and care for others:
Cross Talk: Where Life and Scripture Meet
by Michael R. Emlet
Mental Health and Your Church: A Handbook for Biblical Care
by Helen Thorne & Dr. Steve Midgely
Above all, we need to remember that fostering a culture of care starts with abiding in Christ and recognizing that we can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5-8). We must be deeply rooted in our communion with Christ and ask for his guidance as we follow his example. Get to know the ways of the good shepherd and remember that what Christ calls us to, he also models for us (John 13:34-35), and he also equips us (John 14:26).
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will discuss more of the practical steps you can take in fostering a culture of care in the church.