Tag: social gospel

A New Model Merges Pastoral Care and Social Action

I am speaking tomorrow at Duke Divinity School to students in the Rural Ministry Colloquia, a monthly gathering of students involved in, or interested in, rural church ministry.  I have been asked to tell our story of how we started a community center, community music school, and several other projects here in our small town of 1300 people.

In addition to telling our story, I’m also going to share some very quick thoughts about the role of small churches in rural areas.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the theology and practice of pastoral care in a missional church, and how that is different from pastoral care in traditional churches.  I think I’ve come up with a least a few questions, if not fully-formed answers.  Here’s some of what I’ll share tomorrow:

  1. Missional theology and praxis calls for contextual, incarnational engagement with the community.  How does “the care of souls” fit into the missio Dei and our part in it?
  2. Why is pastoral care largely ignored in the on-going conversations about the tranformation of the church?
  3. Given the social structures of rural society, and the aging populations of small town and rural America, shouldn’t “the care of souls” be a part of our intentional ministry, and not just an afterthought during times of crisis?
  4. Considering the rampant poverty, increased alcohol and drug abuse problems, lower educational levels, and other social issues affecting rural areas, shouldn’t our care of people also include care for the community, and the transformation of communal issues?

I am also proposing tomorrow a new way to look at pastoral care and social action (which is not a term I like, but I can’t think of another more descriptive).

The typical pastoral care model is a dyad of both the spiritual and psychological care of a person or family.  The typical “social gospel” model (or social action model) is a dyad of  spiritual and sociological engagement with a community, or group in a community.

I am proposing a new model that is a synthesis of both pastoral care and social gospel — a triad of the spiritual, psychological, and sociological concerns addressed by both individual approaches to care, and communal approaches to care.

In the Bible, salvation is often seen as coming to a people, not just individuals.  Certainly, the salvation of Israel was not thought of as future, but as a present reality that God could, and often did, provide.  This does not diminish the importance and necessity of a personal response to Jesus’ call to “come and follow me” but rather it broadens that call to include the salvation of social systems and communities.

I believe that “the care of souls” is going to burst into our theological imaginations in new and exciting ways.  Some of those will be that care will be more relational and less educational; and, more contextual and less general.

The “care of souls” will also fill the gaps in the social fabric of rural communities who have lost much of their social framework to chain stores, increased mobility, and the loss of public spaces.  I am convinced that we need to see our communities, not just as potential additions to our membership roles, but as “sheep without a shepherd.”

Creating networks of caring, training spiritual directors, offering healing solutions to intractable social problems — these are some of the new ways in which pastoral care in the missional church finds new expression.   One of the primary tasks of churches is to make meaning out of life’s stages and events.  By viewing our communities, and the individuals and families within them, as in need of Christian care, I believe we change the tone and effect of what we are doing.

What do you think?  How has your church, small or large, had opportunity to express care both for individuals and the entire community?  How have you brought about community transformation through “the care of souls?”  I’m really interested in gathering examples of churches doing this because I think it’s the next new awareness of the missional movement.

Powerpoint: Small Churches Make Good Neighbors

Here’s the powerpoint I used in my NOC2008 workshop, Small Churches Make Good Neighbors.   I’m using the abbey church model, and discussing the 10 aspects of the ancient celtic abbeys applied to churches today.  The ppt is on SlideShare, so you can view and download the presentation, if you find it helpful.  I am going to edit and add to the notes, but I think you’ll get the thrust of the presentation as it is.  Let me know if you have questions or comments.

21 Potential Ministry Partners for Your Church

handshake.jpg Last year, after talking about how our church partnered with various groups in our community, someone remarked, “That’s fine for your church, but nobody in our community would work together.” In the interest of challenging that statement, here are 21 groups that I think your church (or any church) might partner with on community transformation:

  1. Schools — including the PTA, PTO, and other school organizations.
  2. Civic clubs — our Rotary Club gives away over $12,000 per year to local organizations.
  3. Local charitable organizations — shared agendas create new partnerships. Join with others to feed the hungry or shelter the homeless. Our church does both working with other groups.
  4. Local corporations and businesses — our Boys and Girls Club is supported in part by local business contributions. We get donations from other companies for other projects, too.
  5. Other churches — I know this is a stretch, but yes, churches can work together, too. Our community center began as an informal coalition of local churches.
  6. Law Enforcement agencies — the local sheriff’s department worked with our Boys and Girls Club on a baseball project last summer.
  7. Local fire department — our local fire department was a co-sponsor for the Boys and Girls Christmas Party this year. They bought toys for each of the 86 kids who attended.
  8. Hospitals — many hospitals provide programs for clergy. Why not a community project that involves healthcare, such as blood pressure screenings, etc?
  9. Transportation companies — some churches provide a “free ride day” with the cooperation of their local transit provider.
  10. Hobby clubs — local hobbyists could provide instruction or donate products they made for specific projects. One of our members organizes a blanket project, with all the blankets made by others. Blankets go to children involved in calls made by the Sheriff’s department.
  11. Hunting and fishing clubs — In rural areas, local hunters and fishermen provide game or fish for a community wild game dinner or fish fry.
  12. Professional partners — doctors, lawyers, and other professionals could partner with churches to provide legal advice for seniors, or health programs for the community.
  13. Banks and financial institutions — Banks often look for ways to do good in their communities, and you can tap that civic spirit in the form of sponsorships or volunteers.
  14. 12-step programs — Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other 12-step type programs depend on church facilities for meeting space. But, there could also be other tie-ins with these groups.
  15. Local politicians — we invited local county supervisors to our community center groundbreaking and some came! During an election year especially, local politicians can lend their names to worthwhile projects. Maybe some money, too.
  16. Other religious groups — the church we attended in Nashville years ago partnered with other churches, synagogues, and mosques to create an interfaith dialogue group that met for dinner once a year.
  17. Colleges and universities — our community music school is a collaboration with Virginia Tech’s Outreach Department. Universities often need to do community outreach as part of their mission in their state.
  18. Community Development Corporations — these are groups whose mission and projects aim at community transformation. A lot of variety exists in CDC programs, from low-income housing, to rehabbing old buildings, to targeting specific civic problems.
  19. Social service organizations — our church hosts the annual Social Services Volunteer Luncheon each year, sponsored by our local county Social Services Department. We call them to check out folks who request help, and they call us when they have a need with which they need assistance.
  20. Scouts — often Scouts need projects to earn merit badges and churches need things done. Check with your local scout leaders.
  21. Professional sports teams — our local minor league baseball team sponsors church night and gives church groups discounts. But, this partnership could be expanded to provide visits to children in the local hospital, or to your church after-school program.