Volunteer Church-based Community Caregivers: A Call for Chaplains to Lead and Empower
By Gerard Barabash
Before I was called to serve as a Chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) I served first as a pastoral care pastor and then as a senior pastor in a number of Alliance churches. At each of those churches we valued and enabled lay pastoral caregivers to serve within and beyond the faith community.
Not very long after my first “posting” (the military term for someone else deciding where you and your family must move to and live) and before I was sent away on my Basic Military Training Course, I was the recipient of God’s healing power and grace through the ministry of a lay caregiver at a church we had only started to attend.
I was quite pleased that I had not only met but crushed the performance standards on the
mandatory fitness test. However, three days later, I began to experience severe sciatic pain that started in my right hip and went all the way down my leg and into my toes. The pain continued without relief for more than a month. It was Communion and Healing Sunday at our new church and I had to leave for Basic Training on Tuesday. Many people went forward for healing, but I did not. I was about to get up, but then the pastor invited anyone who was sill in their seats to just raise their hand so that whomever God led to pray for them could do so. I raised my hand and a lady behind me offered to pray. I explained my situation. She prayed and I was healed. To this day I do not know who that person was. All I know is that God worked in a mighty way through the gifts of compassion and healing he had given to a lay person in what would become my new church family.
Because of that experience I went off to “basic” with the confidence of knowing that the presence and power of Christ were with me and that a family of faithful believers – not just my denomination or the pastor – was behind me, supported me, and cared for me.
I made it through basic and had the opportunity to provide a series of training workshops for an initial group of lay community caregivers at that church. I have heard that their ministry has grown and is impacting many peoples’ lives – just as that one person who prayed for me made a difference in mine.
I would like to invite – even challenge – all Chaplains of the AAC to consider and pray about leading, equipping and empowering those who are gifted and called to serve in congregations and communities as Church-based Community Caregivers.
In a document prepared for the Canadian Pacific District (CPD) Leadership, the Chaplains Committee of the CPD affirms that:
There are many highly skilled, committed and godly lay persons who would serve under the auspices of a local Alliance Church if we had a framework to accomplish the same. We would like to expand the opportunity for gifted and called church-based lay people to answer Jesus’ call to ministry by promoting a Church-based Community Caregiver model as a meaningful and practical way to serve Jesus through the church and into the community.
The document entitled “CPD Volunteer Church-Based Community Caregiver Model” outlines concepts, liabilities, benefits and protocols for lay community caregivers and it has been reviewed and approved by District Leadership as a communication piece for CPD churches. You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive a copy of the document pending the approval of the authors.
We chaplains have the potential to initiate equip and lead life changing ministries through the gifts of care and compassion that God has given to “committed and godly lay persons” who are ready to serve in our churches.
Initiatives that AAC Chaplains might consider in their local churches include:
1. Offering to recruit, train, develop and supervise potential community caregivers;
2. Offering to provide training and coaching to existing caregiver teams;
3. Being available as a resource person as needed; and,
4. Sharing your knowledge and assessment of available Community Caregiver models such as Stephen Ministries www.stephenministries.org, or other church based models you may have heard about or experienced.
Having moved to another city just a few weeks ago, I am in the process of searching for a new church family. Due to the nature of my job, I may only be here for a year, but I have decided to make the above challenge my own. Rather than look for a church to support me in my ministry, I need to prayerfully seek an opportunity to promote and empower the community caregiver model in a church that is open to the enabling of gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to those who are willing to serve.
Would you as an Alliance Chaplain be willing to invest in God’s Kingdom, by empowering gifted and committed people to serve and to grow in a church-based care giving ministry? The opportunity is there. We have the ability and we have the experience. God has already given his gifts and his life-changing power is available now. Our lead on this will make a difference in the church and for all who might hear his voice in their time of need.