Empowering to Healing Work

Jesus’ model for ministry

by Jill Westberg McNamara

Jesus sent his disciples—a group of people he chose and assembled—out to do and eventually continue his ministry. He told them to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick. Jesus’ ministry stressed healing the whole person. As was natural in his Hebrew tradition, he did not separate the body from the mind and […]

Keeping Cool

Congregational Cooling Center can offer help from the heat

QUESTION: We’d like to open a cooling center for our older adults or people with disabilities that might be suffering from the heat in their homes. Do you have any suggestions for how our health ministry team might do that?   ANSWER: Good for you for taking a team approach to this important effort through […]

Blood Drive Benefits for Everyone

Getting Your Congregation Excited to Donate Blood

QUESTION: We are having a hard time recruiting folks for our congregation’s twice-yearly blood drive. Do you have any suggestions on how we might excite people to be involved in this important health service?   ANSWER: Blood drives are a great way to help others who need any of the various blood products that are […]

Celebrate Differences for Healthier Children and Communities

Speak and model the language of racial solidarity at church

by Michelle Reyes

The children in our church don’t always talk to each other. It’s not what you think. I’m grateful we don’t have issues with cliques or bullies, and we don’t have huge age gaps. Rather, not everyone shares the same language. We are an urban, multicultural church in east Austin, Texas, and on any given Sunday, […]

MESH Monday: Experience, Strength, and Hope

Melody was over 60 when she walked through the doors, shattered by the grief that addiction brought into her life. It happened the first time in her late 40s, and now she was going through it again. Addiction gripped a family member, and she could do nothing to help. Now she was the one who […]

Centering Prayer

Set an intention to become open to God’s presence

by Lauren Hales

At Church of the Holy Communion (Episcopal) in Memphis, Tennessee, a faithful group with representatives from congregations all over the city have been meeting on the first Saturday of every month for Centering Prayer for the last 17 years. The group knows each other well, having spent much time together in prayer, contemplation, and joy. […]


The Healing Cycle

A review of Helping Groups Heal: Leading Small Groups in the Process of Transformation by Jan Paul Hook

Helping Groups Heal, by Dr. Jan Paul Hook, in collaboration with Dr. Joshua N. Hook and Dr. Don E. Davis, presents an accessible approach to working toward sustainable growth and healing in a variety of small group settings. Dr. Hook pulls from both personal experience and the biblical promise of struggle followed by redemption. This […]

Let the Children Come

Growing Healthy Children through Congregational Life

by Doreen Olson and Steve Burger

Five-year-old Joey bounded into the kindergarten classroom. “Teacher, is it true that God made all the people?” Without waiting for a response, he exclaimed, “I wonder where he got all the parts?” Children have an innate sense of God at an early age. Joey’s sense of wonder exemplifies this truth. Often our best response as […]

Dreams of Justice

A journey together toward the glory of God

by Scott Morris

I came to Memphis more than 30 years ago because I read somewhere that it was the poorest city in America. It did not take long to discover that this was true. But along with economic and healthcare injustice, I found vibrant churches across the denominations, neighborhoods with strong identities, and a climate of looking […]

Waters of Justice

Remembering Frank McRae

by Scott Morris

William Austin was a sharecropper in Tipton County, Tennessee, during the1940s and 1950s. He had 17 children because to be a successful farmer you needed your own workforce. In the early 1960s, two of his sons left the life of sharecropping for jobs in Memphis. Eventually, they persuaded William to follow them, and he became […]

Circles of Community

An Activity to Identify and Celebrate the People in Your Life

How many people do you cross paths with in a week? How many opportunities do you have to give and receive support for healthier living? Here’s an activity you can do with nearly any age or group in your congregation, such as Sunday school classes, ministry teams, committees, choirs, or service groups. Follow these basic […]

Welcoming the Stranger as Friend

Tips to begin with common interests

One of the cornerstones of healthy community is being welcoming and truly making space for new people to belong. With many faith communities, an open, inclusive atmosphere is what can convince a visitor to return for another service or to continue searching. When churches embrace genuine community, and nurture and sustain a culture of inclusivity, […]

Take Changes in Stride

6 Tips for Healthy Transitions

Periods of transition or significant change in your life, whether the death of a loved one, a loss of a job, a divorce, or adjusting to an empty nest, can take a toll on physical, mental and spiritual health. It’s important to take changes in stride and do your best to keep your health and […]

Pursuing a God Who Beckons

Pilgrimage toward a whole spiritual relationship

by Karen L. Klein

A pilgrimage and trip are not the same thing. The main goal of a trip is to get to a destination and, once there, accomplish a purpose. Often it’s to relax and rejuvenate, have a little fun and bring back souvenirs. Or perhaps a trip might involve a particular objective—to secure a new job, meet […]

Health Ministry Tips to Jumpstart Your Congregation to Better Health

Communication If there is a health ministry team at your church, find out what they do, why they exist, and who is involved. Contact the health ministry leader and communicate your interest in working to promote health in your congregation. Getting Others to Get Medical Attention Build a relationship between your leader, the congregation and […]

One Plantation, Two Sets of Eyes

Two pilgrims reflect on their experience of Durham’s Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope, specifically on the visit to the Stagville Plantation.

The most significant part of this experience was visiting with people in my faith community an old plantation community that over the course of its existence held around 3,000 enslaved people. I also really enjoyed learning about people in the city’s history about whom I had not yet known. The most striking aspect in many […]

A Journey with Our City, Ourselves, and Our God

A pilgrimage of pain and hope

by Reynolds Chapman

I live in Durham, North Carolina, and our city is trending right now. Seven years ago we started to hear the buzz about the accolades we were achieving from travel magazines and food blogs, and I would refer people to a one-pager with all our awards. Now there’s a website with a running stream of […]

Partnering Police and Pastors

Memphis Police Department’s Clergy Police Academy

by Stacy Smith

Situated in the Bible belt, Memphis, Tennessee, is a city of churches. However, the city has had difficulty recruiting police officers. City officials sought new and better ways to encourage community policing, a practice in which police officers partner with community leaders to improve public safety. Michael Rallings, director of Memphis Police Department, says, “Community […]

All Roads Lead to the Kitchen Table

A pilgrimage of community and broken paths

by Ashley-Anne Masters

Recently I spent a weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, for the wedding of a friend and colleague. I grew up going to those mountains and spent many summers and formative times there. That area of the world holds my history and significant parts of my story of lifelong friendships, laugher on porches, grief, grace, and […]

The Nature of Care

Claiming the church’s voice in the culture of caregiving

What is the nature of care? Do we “give” care generously, or is it a list of tasks to squeeze into the day? Is there a difference between “care for” and “care about”? Is it a job? A relationship? All of these choices can be true. Caregiving is complex, and no two situations are identical. […]

Crisis Mode Calling

Receiving care with grace and gratitude

by Gwen Ellis

“How many people can you call when you are in crisis mode?” my counselor asked. “You know, the kind you can call in the middle of the night?” “Ah, one, maybe two,” I told her. “That’s not enough. You need at least 20.” My mouth dropped open. Twenty? Did I even have 20 friends, much […]

Why Walk

A Journey for Body and Spirit

For most people, walking is a simple form of exercise. Weather permitting, walkers can be outside on nature paths, sidewalks, or tracks. They can also be inside malls, large stores or fitness centers. Individuals can choose the length of time and pace of walking. The health benefits of a brisk walking habit are well known, […]

Racial Reconciliation Over Dinner

How can congregations help heal the racial tensions in our nation? Some of the best tools are the simplest: eat together, sing together, and serve together. In Rome, Georgia, Lovejoy Baptist Church, a predominantly African American congregation, and Westminster Presbyterian Church, a predominantly white congregation, formed a partnership. Rev. Carey Ingram of Lovejoy and Rev. […]

Faithful to Empower

Health ministry in every congregation

by J. Elisha Burke

Since its inception in 1899, the Baptist General Convention of Virginia (BGCVA) has remained faithful to its educational mission through outreach that empowers and equips children, youth, women, and men to make and maintain healthy holistic lifestyle choices. The conference is a nonprofit organization representing 1,000 African American churches and 29 regional associations in urban, […]


The Whole Church

Q&A with Otis Moss III

by Stacy Smith

A hip-hop pastor born of the civil rights movement, Otis Moss III is the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois. Embracing a holistic approach to ministry informed by Black liberation theology, Dr. Moss has led efforts to address social issues through the lens of community health. His recent book, Blue […]

Getting Through the Storm

Faith community nurse serves families of homicide victims

by Lizy Heard

At the corner of Lambdin and St. Louis Avenue in the Ville district sits Mt. Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. Ronald Fraction, a former police officer and currently a chaplain for the St. Louis City Police Department and St. Louis Retired Police Officers. He and faith community nurse Alverta Smith partner in caring […]

Shalom and Creation

Protectors, Cultivators, and Servants of the Land

by Lisa Sharon Harper

I grew up with five brothers and sisters. My older brother and I often were put in charge of our other siblings when my mother and dad were out of the house. In the same way, God puts humans—the youngest siblings of creation—in charge of our older sibling creatures. It is our responsibility to keep […]

A Place To Call Home

An organization in Dallas seeks to provide a safe space for homeless youth

by Hannah Walter

In 2012, community leaders from the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas, approached its neighboring high school, North Dallas High School, to see how the congregation could best serve the school and their community. What they discovered was a startling fact: in the Dallas Independent School District, 3,000 students are designated as homeless. While […]

A Zone for Shalom

Grassroots movements of church and community leaders aims to put the neighborhood "parish" back in the church

by Michael J. Christensen

They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. —Isaiah 61:4 A spirit of innovation is blowing in the wind, creating new opportunities for church redevelopment and fresh expressions of ecclesia in particular neighborhoods. Either a new notion of […]

Name, Bless, Connect

What happened when a Midwestern church stopped “helping” their community and started listening instead.

by Mike Mather

The county health department in my Midwestern city invited me to a press conference releasing the results of a five-year study. The study revealed that people who don’t have money are less healthy than people who have money. Except for two of us, everyone in the room was a health care professional. One by one, […]

Gonna Make You Sweat

Sweaty Sheep Ministries

by Mary Boland

“When did we decide that faith was a passive experience?” Ryan Althaus, a fitness enthusiast and recreation specialist, says that it’s not. Recognizing the disconnect between recreation and the church, Ryan saw an opportunity to merge the two, and Sweaty Sheep Ministries was born.“Movement is so tied to fitness and wellness overall,” he stresses, “it’s […]

Every Church an Innovator

Just as Jesus responded to the immediate needs of his community, the church is called to an innovation process that places empathy at its core.

by Floyd Thompkins and Byron Bland

Every community desires to equip young people with the spiritual, social and psychological skills that are needed for them to have a bright future. This is especially difficult in economically and socially challenged areas and neighborhoods. Yet fewer young people are attracted to our churches. More, alarmingly, the rates of violence and death among middle […]

The Creativity Story

Writing, telling, hearing and imagining the story of our creation

by Ashley Goff

Standing in Sacred Greens, the urban garden of Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, DC, I see that the March sky is that end-of-the-winter blue-gray color. Our raised garden beds are full of spent kale and spinach. The soil is choppy, the snow and ice of the past few weeks speckling brown ground underneath. Bare […]

Building in the Black Belt

The story of Rural Studio, its students, and the people they serve

by Mary Boland

Sometimes the greatest innovations are born from the simplest elements. In the 1992–93 academic year at Auburn University, two professors, Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee and D. K. Ruth, established an innovative academic program called Rural Studio built on the simple foundation of fulfilling two needs: Auburn’s architecture students need hands-on experience designing buildings, and the people […]


Being fearfully, wonderfully and differently made

by Mike Samson

Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” – Matthew 2:1–2 I suppose being the father of a child with special needs is different than being the father of a typical child. I can’t say for sure. Our first-born son, Matthew, who […]

To Be Known And Loved

Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia

by Mary Button

I was in my second year studying ethics at the Candler School of Theology when I first visited Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in southeast Atlanta. In typical fashion I tiptoed into the sanctuary about five minutes after the start of worship. My good friend and fellow student was preaching that day, and I had hoped […]

Dis-abling Pain

Ways of Thinking about--and Dealing With--Chronic Pain

by Michelle M. Lelwica

When I told my chiropractor, who knows I’m a religion professor, that I was writing a paper on chronic pain for an academic conference, she gave me a funny look. “What’s chronic pain got to do with religion?” she asked. But before I had a chance to respond, she began answering her own question. Some […]


To Belong, We Need To Be Missed

Q&A with John Swinton, director of the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability at the University of Aberdeen

by Jessica Bratt Carle

As a mental health nurse for 16 years, John Swinton worked closely with those whom society deems to be “different.” These formative experiences with disability, mental health, and dementia led him to found the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability, an international research institute at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Now a world-renowned scholar, […]

It Takes a Village

The mission of Special Olympics and the role we can all play in supporting the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities

by Kristin Hughes Srour

At a Special Olympics camp held near Transylvania, Romania, a little girl sprints with a personality larger than life. Maria only moves at one speed—fast. The only words she knows in English, “yeah, baby!” are her standard response after you give her a high five. Even at age five, Maria is quite small on account […]

Rejection and Grace

Why the Church Needs People Who Have Intellectual Disabilities

by Bethany Keener

Charles Clark marched into a class where Rev. Tim Malone was teaching and declared that he was there because he was going to get confirmed. “I am not proud to say it, but I remember thinking cynically, Yeah, sure you are. And how is that going to work?” recalls Rev. Malone, who pastors at St. […]

Homebound Tips Throughout the Year

by Church Health Reader Editors

The holiday season can be the most uplifting and challenging time of the year for all of us. This is particularly the case for people who are homebound or otherwise unable to attend church, visit their friends or see their families. When it comes to ministering to the homebound, our intentions are wonderful. The holiday […]

Gather Around the Table Coloring Page

Share the joy of gathering around the table. Print this coloring sheet for your children or children at your church!   Download here >> Gather Around the Table

Artful Aging

How churches are developing community partnerships to provide creative therapy for seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia

by Melissa Huff

He hadn’t recognized himself for years. Sometimes he couldn’t even remember his own name. With a pencil clinched between stiff fingers he carefully retraces the sketch of a tall, slender gentleman with a milk chocolate complexion and sparkling eyes dressed in a dapper suit; a cap propped upon his head. Then he dips his brush in […]

10 Healthy Holiday Traditions

by Church Health Reader Editors

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. Yet for many of us, the sacred aspects of Advent are lost in the holiday shuffle and it can become the unhealthiest time of the year. Sweet foods seem to be everywhere. Shopping, baking and traveling leave us tired and stressed. This season, use these traditions […]

After the Tragedy

After the murders at Emanuel AME, I turned to silence, community and Scripture to help bear the pain of loss.

by William Miller

For me, faith has a complex new meaning in the days following the tragedy that occurred in a Bible study held at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. I remember walking through the door at home that evening after attending Vacation Bible School at the church I pastored and almost simultaneously receiving […]

A Model Hospital

How one medical center is making the Model for Healthy Living come to life

by Mary Boland

The OSF Saint Francis Medical Center Wellness Services has taken the Model for Healthy Living to a whole new level by using its structure in their Surgical Weight Loss Program. They’ve devised a revision of the information provided to patients by crafting Journey to Better Health Wellness Passports. The pocket-sized passports are easily portable so […]

How to Think Like a Doctor

by Nia Zalamea

Preparing for a visit to the doctor is what I imagine prepping for a blind date might be like: how to tell them everything that matters to you in 10 minutes or less. Getting the most out of that small amount of time isn’t only important for you, it’s critical for the medical team as […]

A Community Called Home

Ministries Creating a Dwelling Place for the Moral Injury of Our Veterans

by Elsa Peters Cook

“The trauma that warriors face can’t be healed by medication or even talk therapy,” explains the Rev. John Schluep. “It can only come through the gritty work of being in the trenches.” With the increasing awareness that 22 veterans commit suicide each day, communities of faith are looking for new ways of being in the […]