Starting a health ministry in your congregation

Health ministries can be a rewarding way to live the Gospel and serve others. They can also be a bit of a challenge for a congregation that has some members with an interest in this ministry but not sure how to take the next step. Here are some ideas that can help you narrow the focus and begin a discussion about what you can do.

Who is our audience? Do we plan this ministry as a congregational ministry or outreach project? Congregational health ministries do not require a parish nurse, although it’s a great program to have in your church. Another approach would be to present some educational topics such as spirituality and medicine, faith and healing, or how faith can help people live with a chronic disease. Other educational topics could include education on advanced directives, or even CPR and/or First Aid classes.

If you’re thinking about an outreach program, they run the gamut from partnering with another church or organization to help an ongoing community health project, such as a free clinic, to running screening programs such as a high blood pressure, diabetes, or even offering free sports physicals. An excellent way to combine a health ministry along with evangelism is to co-sponsor a health fair with your local hospital. Hospitals, especially in smaller communities, are always looking for community events to get involved in and market their programs. Here’s an opportunity to do some “co-branding” with your local healthcare organization and help others at the same time.

What are our needs? There are some general health trends in south and east Georgia that are common to just about everywhere in the Diocese. Each community is different, and approaches the problem from a different perspective. If you’re interested in what the healthcare needs of your community are, talk with some of the people who are involved on a daily basis. Physicians and nurses in your congregation are a good start. So is your local hospital administrator or nurses at the local health department. The hospital’s social services department is an overlooked resource for finding out who needs help and how.

What are our resources? A health ministry needs to be an ongoing project in order to be effective. None of the problems you will be dealing with are short-term. Its important to find a ministry that does not exhaust volunteers’ time and congregational resources. So, in starting a health ministry, you want to find one that is manageable in terms of time, talent, and treasure. By doing this you will be able to nurture it into an effective, vibrant way to help others, and bring God’s love to them.

Where can we go if we have questions? One of the goals of the St. Luke’s Network is to match the expertise of health professionals with congregations who want to become active in this area. Feel free to post a question on our Health Ministries Blog. Also check out the links on the site in your particular area of interest, or feel free to email us at health@georgiaepiscopal.org. We would be happy to share our experience with you!