Connection through Caring

Bethleham Lutheran Church in St. Charles, IL

by Church Health Reader Editors

Baking. Visiting. Organizing. Serving meals. Listening. Transporting. Knitting. Welcoming. Fixing. Mentoring. Communing. Praying.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Illinois offers a robust congregational care ministry that supports the emotional health of its members. The ministry seeks to connect those who need care with those who want to care for others within the body of Christ and in the process encourage and equip one another to live in community as disciples.

Many of the congregational care programs are aimed at individuals going through some form of stressful life transition—a new baby, serious illness, grieving a loved one, unemployment, divorce. Ministry activities range from confidential pastoral counseling to fixing a leaky faucet or a ride to a medical appointment. If a family experiences hardship over an extended period of time, such as prolonged illness, a support team is there to minister to whatever need arises. Homebound individuals receive communion, which helps to keep them connected to the congregation even when they cannot be present for worship.

Support for emotional health may also come in the form of small group meetings. Bible studies address life transition topics, and a grief group brings together people who have experienced loss for study, friendship and support. A 50+ group brings together people sharing a season of life to enjoy friendship and fellowship.

Bethlehem Lutheran also uses Stephen Ministry, a program of one-to-one lay caring ministry that makes sure no one is left out. ThepurposeofStephenMinistryisto“equip the saints” for ministry and build up the body of Christ. A healthy emotional life is essential for vibrant ministry.

By providing care during challenging circumstances and intentionally starting groups that help people know they are not alone, Bethlehem strives to nurture the faith of everyone in the community. Director of Care and Connection Kelly Collins says, “Our faith calls us to both reach out and to let others in. This is often very different from the way we live in the world. Many of us are hungry for connection, meaningful relationship and companionship.”

The congregational care ministry team sees themselves as people who choose to reach out and help others and to bring God’s love into their community by sharing their time and gifts.

The ministry is not a burden that falls to a few people to wear themselves out. It is a way of thinking and living together that allows people to plug in and use their individual gifts to touch each other’s lives. Collins explains, “We are intentional about creating and matching opportunities for caring ministry that works with today’s lifestyle. In this way, it is both easier to serve and to receive.”

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