For my dear broken people, I’m heartbroken. I weep, seized by grief. Are there no healing ointments in Gilead? Isn’t there a doctor in the house? So why can’t something be done to heal and save my dear, dear people? Jeremiah 8:21-22 [The Message Translation]
Is there a doctor in the house?
For so long I would read this scripture and focused on the balm, the ointment, that is needed to be healed. In my mind, I always thought about the healing but not necessarily the process of healing, just the result. I am sure I am not alone. There are so many of us that rush to the finish line which is part of our human nature. We want to know before it even starts what is the healing going to look like. We need something tangible to identify and connect to before we decide to contribute to the healing process.
Who Among Us?
But as I read this passage closer, I became intrigued by the call for the doctor and the insinuation that the help may already be in the house. Yes, we're waiting for God to respond to our healing, but while we wait how are we using the resources that God has already placed in our presence? If the balm is the ointment, certainly we need someone to apply it to the affected areas. So, who is that person? Where are they? And are they equipped to provide the needed assistance for healing? Now to be clear, I am not talking about the spiritual or emotional aspect of healing, but I am talking about the physical healing that plagues so many in our community. Whether it's diabetes, hypertension, poor nutrition, or high cholesterol, those health conditions impact a large majority of black and brown persons in our communities and spills over into our congregations.
An action plan to address chronic health can come through established health ministries that are meant to build up the health conscious of a congregation. Health information is being disseminated and health fairs are being hosted. But have we ever thought about the composition of the health ministry itself, like who are its leaders and what is the profile of the worker needed for an effective ministry? Certainly, we cannot expect the pastor to develop a plan for spiritual, emotional, social, and physical health. The pastor has been trained for the spiritual and social constructs, and if we're lucky there may be a couple pastors among us that can adequately and sufficiently handle the mental health of its members. But the reality is that there is a small percentage of pastors who are also clinical professionals. And if we're honest, some ecumenical settings don't talk about medicine or clinical care treatment plans at all because it contradicts some of their teachings and beliefs. But for established health ministries, I must still pose my question who is leading these groups and how are they formed? Is there a doctor in the house?
When asking this question, I am not referring to a M.D, although that would not hurt, but rather inquiring about the profile of the people serving in health ministries. If there is a church leader considering the launch of a health ministry, there must be some thought given to ‘the who' that serves on this committee. While we all love volunteers there needs to be appropriate and relevant messaging to encourage the right set of volunteers to participate that fit certain aspects of this work.
To attract volunteers that are gifted for the health ministry, start with answering these questions:
What is the purpose of the ministry?
Is the ministry going to develop a health education library and disseminate information?
Is the ministry going to be a support group for those facing certain chronic illnesses?
Is the ministry going to manage health related special events reaching the congregation in the community?
Establishing the purpose during its development will help guide the work to be done as well as determine the impact it will have on its members. Scripture said “if one is without vision, the people will perish” so building a health Ministry must start with the purpose. It is for the sake of the communities that are being served.
After the purpose is determined, the composition of the health group should then be considered:
Will it be persons who are compassionate and have a spirit of hospitality? They may be the ones visiting the sick or disseminating information to residents in a community.
Will it include persons who have clinical training? A mix of doctors, nurses, public health professionals, etc to ensure appropriate information is considered for discussion.
Will there be educators involved? There might be a need for curriculum development for adult learners.
Identifying the purpose of the service is just as important as equipping the saints for effective service that needs to be done. Health ministry leaders should be aware that toolkits have been developed for the purpose of supporting the launch of health ministries or to sustain established groups. Because congregations will vary across denominations and across geographic locations, the needs to sustain these ministry groups will also vary. Toolkits can include having current and relevant health information, instructions on social media and communications planning, and tips or best practices on community event planning. These kits will be made available for health ministries identifying a need and will be accompanied by guided support.
When we ask is there a doctor in the house, are persons involved with health ministries at a church been well-informed, well-prepared and ready to apply the balm that someone needs for healing? Are they committed to the process of healing the community and saving my dear, dear people?
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