The congregation I serve has a Ministry Team. The four members and I meet once a month to pray for people connected with the church and to discuss any needs people have that the church might be able to meet. Everyone who is actively part of the congregation is assigned to one of the Team members’ care list. The ideal is that everyone gets checked on at least once a month.
I love this group of people. Very few things feed my soul like praying with people I love for people I love. And as a pastor, it is wonderful to have these gifted church members providing care on behalf of the church at a level I could never manage on my own.
Our little congregation has been slowly but surely growing for the past few years, which means I have had several opportunities to add people to our care lists. Before we add someone to a list, I generally ask them if putting them on such a list is O.K.
It is a joy to ask people this question, because their responses are always positive–sometimes even elated. The care the church offers is received as a gift–an unexpected and joyful gift.
Within the past week I have asked two people if we could add them to a care list, and both people were delighted. They were incredibly grateful that someone would be praying for them, that the church wanted to care for them.
I was deeply touched by these responses, and I realized that I too often take the care of my church family for granted.
I am a pastors’ kid, so I grew up in church. I grew up surrounded by people whose love and care I took for granted. The elderly lady who always asked to read my poems. The grumpy grandpa who couldn’t hide how much he liked me even when he was telling me to quit running on the stairs. The other moms and dads who treated me like their own kid. The adults who taught my Sunday School classes, attended our youth group fund raisers, went on long road trips with me singing loudly (and probably off key) in their backseat.
There are many valid criticisms one could make of the churches I attended as a child and youth. They were not ideal churches. Many (yeah, most) of the people who were part of these churches held/hold theological positions quite different from mine. There were the usual petty fights; the moral failings; the tendency to be too inward-focused.
But I grew up knowing I was loved. Not just by Jesus and God. Not just by my parents. I grew up knowing I was loved by a whole group of people.
And not the warm fuzzy “isn’t she adorable” kind of love. I was loved with an “I’ll give up my Saturday for you” kind of love. An “I think about you and pray for you even when I’m not around you” kind of love. A “whatever our differences may be, you are part of my life, part of my family” kind of love.
Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t it astounding? How wonderful that there are still places in this world where we can help each other love like that.
And what a deep, deep blessing it is to be one of the beloved.