Peril: no Lone Rangers allowed

August 5th, 2014

The call came in on a Monday morning. The pastor described himself as someone who was “over the top” and “beyond his capacity” to give what his midsize congregation needed and required of him. He said multiple times, “I’ve let them down.” What he was most sad about was not his preaching or the  fiscal responsibilities of the church. Rather, he was saddened by his inability to meet the care needs of his people.

My first question to him was, “Who have you raised up to help you with the care?”

His simple answer: “No one.”

For most of us, there comes a time when we think to ourselves, “This is not sustainable.” If you’ve had that thought or even the  first inkling of that thought— or if others have said those words to you—then you are in good company. Moses saw it coming, but it was his father-in-law, Jethro, who really laid the law down to him. (Not the Law, but you know what I mean.) Jethro was probably tired of his daughter saying, “He’s never home!”

If you have found your church or yourself needing to  find a new way of providing care, look around you, and  find a layperson who has all the best shepherding attributes. Make a personal plea to that person, and invite him or her to do the ministry with you.

Several years ago, when our church membership had grown to a critical number, it became clear that our small number of pastors could not give the best care to the  flock. We had people falling between the cracks. We had pastors lasting a short while and then not being able to keep up the pace. At that point, our senior pastor, Adam Hamilton, said to me, “Who are we going to get to help you with this?” That is when we called a few of our congregants who we thought had the gift of compassion, and we began the lay volunteer program called Congregational Care Ministers, or CCMs.

We have done our best to train and equip these amazing people, and they have revolutionized the way that our ministry happens. Our in-house training happens once a year, and we provide a national training also once a year. The main topics covered include prayer, theology of care, listening skills, visitation, death and grief, organization, and self-care. We then deploy them in a big way by having a major commissioning in weekend worship. We make sure the congregation sees them as being anointed, called out, trained, and given authority to do this ministry. We then pray for the CCMs and the congregation. The idea here is that the senior pastor makes a big deal of empowering them!

We then take time to make sure they get hands-on training as they do a few hospital calls with us, they sit with us as we counsel someone in a difficult situation, they see and help us keep organized (so people don’t fall between the cracks), and so on. You will  find that each one of them has special gifts, and they will  find their sweet spots where they can thrive . . . and the pastor can survive!

And the greatest gift of all in this: The CCMs love it! Many of them who have medical, teaching, or counseling careers find that this has given them the purpose in life that they have been lacking. This is where their faith can be used alongside their giftedness. Some of our CCMs have now come into ministry in a whole new way, as some are now staff members and some are pursuing careers in ordained ministry.

One great story (and there are hundreds of stories like this): One bright and beautiful young woman who had been diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer was being given care by a great CCM. At the end of her treatment, she said she’d like to give back at some point. When she was well enough, she lived up to that promise and took the training herself.

Since we began this program six years ago, we have trained over 100 CCMs for our four campuses and have trained multitudes more for churches of all sizes through our national training programs. The feedback from these churches has been astounding.

The training manual used for training is The Caring Congregation: Training Manual and Resource Guide; read more about the Congregational Care Rev. Lampe and her team provides here

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