Find Your Healing Ministry
by Dr. Scott Morris
Churches face the question of what a healing ministry looks like and come up with answers that fit their situations. It might be a monthly free medical clinic during which Sunday school rooms transform into exam rooms and the fellowship hall is a waiting room. It might be congregations banding together to offer a children’s wellness clinic before the start of each school year and give kids shots, screenings, and school supplies. It might be commitment to regular financial and volunteer support at a community clinic that touches the lives of people who would never come through a church door. It might be a parish nurse who makes herself available to people in the congregation for questions in times of wellness and a comforting presence in times of illness.
A congregational health ministry does not require medical professionals in the congregation. When I spent a summer in Zimbabwe during medical school, I encountered the concept of the village health care worker. Usually this is a woman who already has the trust of the community. Perhaps she goes through a simple training process on basic health care issues, and now she works as the eyes and ears of the professional health care person in that area. She may be the first to identify someone who needs care and make sure it happens.
We’ve taken this model into the churches of Memphis with a church health promoter ministry. Virtually every church has someone—usually a woman—who has the trust of the congregation on multiple levels. People are already going to her for advice. The Church Health Center offers an eight-week training program on basic topics. We cover community resources people may not be aware of, nutrition, mental and emotional health, common health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, and understanding medications. We look at prenatal, well baby, and women’s issues. We stare sexually transmitted disease in the face—yes, in the church. When they finish the training, these people become the eyes and ears of health care in the congregation. Like the women in the African villages, they may be the first to see an unmet health care need and respond to it.
A seventeen-year-old boy fell off a roof while working as a roofer and ended up at our clinic. His injured arm wasn’t healing. It turned out he had broken two bones. As I looked at the x-ray and talked with him, my first thought was, You’re seventeen. Why aren’t you in school? Why are you working? I was jumping to conclusions. As we talked, I learned that when his family first came to Memphis, his father died in a traffic accident. Then his mother developed breast cancer. He had three younger siblings at home and was now the primary breadwinner for the family. He did what needed to be done because it was right, and he’s a lesson to the rest of us.
Individuals, whether medical professionals or not, can take on a conviction of wellness just the way this young man took on the conviction that it was his job to provide for the family. We can model wellness to family and friends beyond fixing what breaks. We can help others pursue wellness in their own lives because God created them body-and-spirit. That is the healing presence of the gospel, God’s kingdom power at work in real lives.