The C.U.R.E. Model

Organizing for Health Ministry

Organizing for health ministry involves many considerations. Some relate to congregational leadership, some to the health team, and some to better understanding the needs within the congregation and the surrounding community. Realistic expectations and priorities are essential. One practical method that has guided many groups is the C.U.R.E. model, offered by the Tennessee Department of Health Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

C—Contact the Key People

A health and wellness team, or a health ministry team, is a group of professionals and laypeople committed to the concept of a ministry of health and wellness. This group will help you discover the individuals in the congregation who may want to take an active role in improving health in the faith community. Be sure to include people with professional experience in health-related fields, such as physicians, pharmacists, dieticians, and nurses if these people are available in your congregation. You’ll also want people with other skills, such as financial advisers or project organizers. The programs that result from the work of the health ministry team will empower individuals to move toward greater wholeness of body and spirit. Recruit people who are excited about making health changes, who want to know more about whole-life health, and who are willing to meet on a regular schedule to plan activities.

How will you find these key people? Talk with congregational leaders to discover whether they are aware of individuals with a special interest in health. Think back over your own conversations with people. Invite people to come forward. Post a notice on the bulletin board and in normal congregational communications, such as the bulletin, newsletter, committee presentations, and announcements during worship. Provide basic information on the role of a health ministry team, including planning health programs and listening to health concerns. Not everyone who initially expresses interest will join the team, so be flexible with your expectations. If you have a faith community nurse in your congregation, a key decision is whether the nurse will be a member of the team.

Once your key contacts form a team, be sure to thank everyone for being willing to serve. Raise awareness within the congregation that the team has formed, the name by which it will be known, and who the members are. Consider hosting an event, such as a fellowship time following worship, and ask team members to be present for conversation with members of the faith community. During this time, offer healthy refreshments as a role model for healthy choices.

U—Understand the Needs

Next, your team will want to know how best to go about planning programs and resources that meet real needs and lead to improved health. Conduct a needs assessment of the faith community. In order to know what the congregation wants and needs, you have to ask! A simple confidential questionnaire can ask about the health problems people live with, suggestions for health programs they would be interested in participating in or presentations they would attend, which times and days would be most convenient, what types of support groups, whether they are interested in speaking with a nurse or would use a library of self-help books on common topics such as depression, stress, grief, or healthy lifestyle. The assessment doesn’t have to be long—just a few questions. Only ask what you need to know, and focus on topics you believe your team would be able to address in your programming.

Ask several volunteers to review the survey or complete a trial version of it and offer feedback on its clarity. Were the questions easy to understand? Was it simple and quick to complete? If appropriate, revise wording based on this feedback before offering the questionnaire to the full congregation.

Make the survey available in ways that will reach the most people, whether that is paper and pencil or electronically through a tool such as Survey Monkey. Determine whether to offer it in multiple forms, such as on Sunday mornings but also during midweek Bible studies or in small groups and online.

Review the results as a team and begin to develop programs that respond to the needs the congregation has expressed. Use the most frequently requested health items as a guide for developing programs and activities. Create programs and support practices that will improve health of members in ways that will meet immediate needs—such as understanding medication or learning to cook healthy foods—but also help people learn healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

The programs that result from the work of the health ministry team will empower individuals to move toward greater wholeness of body and spirit.

R—Build Relationships and Gather Resources

Consider the following categories of resources when beginning a health ministry.

People. Who sits in the pew next to you? A grant writer? Legal expert? Marketing manager? Cook and hospitality expert? Pharmacist? Facilitator? Who can help with blood pressure screenings? Health Fairs? Fundraising?

Finances. Who is responsible for preparing the health ministry budget? What information is necessary? Will health ministry be a line item in the church’s budget, or do you need to seek grants or ask for gifts?

Other tangible resources. Who can donate items you might need, such as office equipment and supplies? Is there an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on site or is there someone who might donate one? (Be sure people know how to use it.)

Time. Ministry happens in God’s time. Faith community time can be very slow unless there is a champion or advocate, and even then there can be barriers. Business time puts a target on the calendar so an activity happens on a particular date. Allocate time carefully so you don’t overextend. Don’t forget to take time to celebrate milestones and accomplishments with special services or gatherings.

With all resources, be mindful of being good stewards so that the health ministry you are beginning now can have a long life.

E—Evaluate Your Ministry

Evaluate your programs so you will know what works and which programs were not meeting needs. Evaluating will give you results to use as a basis for future plans and to inspire health changes that make a difference.

Begin a new ministry with familiar, nonthreatening one-on-one activities. Many health ministries begin with something straightforward like blood pressure screenings. Display health-related information on bulletin boards, the church website, restroom walls, newsletters or other appropriate methods. When planning an event, determine the goal, the content you will present, presentation methods, when and where the event will happen, and how you’ll publicize it. And don’t forget to evaluate the event afterward to know whether it met a need and whether similar events should be a part of future programming.

This article is adapted from the Beginning Your Ministry module of Foundations of Faith Community Nursing, a curriculum for faith community nurses published by the Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nurses, a ministry of Church Heath, and resources of Tennessee Department of Health. For more information on the C.U.R.E. model, visit and search C.U.R.E.

Illustration by Terri Scott

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