Pastor Chris Rader has been quietly managing the Care Ministries at Journey Community Church since 2010, recognizing that in every community of believers there will be those who have fallen off the societal boundaries that keep them working, finding shelter, getting fed or holding on to hope.
In some cases, there are ongoing groups to address these issues that have turned about hundreds of local men and women who gained strength from other Christians and used the group as an onramp to become a regular worshipper at Journey. These groups include GriefShare, DivorceCare, and Overcoming Depression, among others. The volunteers who lead these groups are dedicated to getting their participants through temporary, emotional crises.
I came to Journey through the gateway of GriefShare when I became a widow. After 13 weeks of meeting, sharing, and grieving with a small group, we bonded and healed and after four years are still aware of a special relationship when we run into each other at Journey activities.
Someone once asked me, “What do you do at GriefShare?”
I stared at him for a moment and said simply, “We cry.” But along with tears are shared stories, words of encouragement, sharing of “God Moments” when we learn lessons about why God allows some of us to be touched by death and strong assurances of His love for us.
The Care ministries do not promise or guarantee your struggle will not be hard or painful. But they do promise that no one stands alone and together we can move forward, with God’s help.
In fact, another ongoing care ministry is Not Alone. This program pairs people in need with trained, committed Care Ministers who will meet once a week for up to one year to listen, guide, and pray in a confidential relationship with a Care Receiver. Training is once a year and the Care Ministers meet together twice monthly to work through some of the tricky situations they confront and share strategies that could unravel some of the knots that trap and entangle the Care Receivers. Even if you are not directly serving in a Care Ministry, the training is beneficial and available to Life Group leaders, Youth Small Group leaders, or anyone else involved in leadership at Journey. Training provides important skills that help us “hear” people’s stories and help them be honest and authentic about the circumstances of their lives.
Under the umbrella of Care Ministries are other groups that meet to overcome domestic abuse, to make hospital visits, as well as periodic, day-long workshops that address a constellation of distress situations.
One of the most critical services of Care Ministry is the volunteers who serve as On-Call Ministers for those walk-in people who come seeking help.
“You never know what is going to come through the door,” says Rader, “I’ve talked to people on the brink of suicide, others who haven’t eaten for days, who just need a pair of socks, or request a suit for a job interview from our thrift store.”
“You never know what is going to come through the door,” says Rader, “I’ve talked to people on the brink of suicide, others who haven’t eaten for days, who just need a pair of socks, or request a suit for a job interview from our thrift store. Our responses are guided by certain protocols, put in place to monitor and track the needs of people. Hunger is the most simple as well as the most common need and each person is given a bag of food and, if needed, a voucher for clothing or blankets. We give out 40-50 bags of food per month to individuals who are hungry. This is separate from the distribution of the Food Bank.”
Celebrate Recovery is one of the longest-running Care Ministry group at Journey.. – about 14 years – and has been a touchstone for hundreds of community members struggling with addictions. With the reorganization of rooms in the I Live The Journey remodel, the Celebrate Recovery room is now regularly in the room facing the back parking lot. It’s called the Far Room and is shared with the Women’s Ministry, THIRTY and other groups and classes.
“We consistently having 30 to 40 people at each meeting,” said Pastor Rader. “There is a constant flow of new people seeking help with Recovery.”
How can you help with Care Ministries? The needs are great and volunteering requires compassion that Christ exhibited for those in need. Not Alone ministry is always in need of ministers and provides lots of training and support and structure for those who are jumping into caring for the first time. All the groups can benefit from volunteers who can provide leadership for their meetings. The On-Call ministry is perfect for someone who can deal with the unexpected, has a strong faith and prayer life and prefers the satisfaction of knowing that they did something concrete to ease suffering each time.
“There are some people and situations that require more than a bag of food or a pair of shoes,” said Pastor Rader. “Occasionally we recognize a Journey family that can be set back on track with a hotel night, rent deposit, childcare or long-term, professional therapy. We try to help with that when we can. Donations designated to the Care Ministries range from financial resources to jars of peanut butter and tuna. This is huge and so helpful. A set of pots and pans can make all the difference to children, children in our own church, getting hot meals or existing on snacks.”