The most basic idea of Member Care is about an environment and structure that fosters care-givers being cared for in holistic ways. The idea of Member Care, though, is not that it would only benefit the care-giver for the sake of receiving and absorbing care, but that this care would directly impact others and their ministry by increasing the care-giver's capacity to live out their calling and mission to serve others and sustain through the hard times.
We attended a Member Care conference this summer on Resiliency, and this conference filled us up with more energy, insight, tools and vocabulary to return to our context feeling energized and ready to serve. Among many things, the host team provided knowledge, experience, space, suggestions, patience and compassion for us weary travelers. They welcomed us with big, hospitable arms, and were attentive to our needs. We felt heard, challenged, encouraged, inspired, prayed for, and much more. If I could choose a few nuggets to share with you, they would be:
- The importance of recognizing, voicing and hearing expectations: for yourself, in marriage, on a team, in ministry, at church, in meetings, etc… and being willing to hang in there for the conversation about whether they are realistic or not. This can help reduce the amount of tension and stress that many of us experience.
- The importance of journeying with and learning from others who are in the same boat as you. At the conference we had the privilege to walk through one intense week with amazing people who are serving in Europe and Asia. Being with people who are going through what you’re going through helps you feel less alone. It helps foster a sense of community, in which we can know how to pray for and strengthen one another.
- It's good, no, it's essential, to grow in self-awareness. Discover how you’re wired, who you work well with, what is life-giving for you, what is life-draining, etc… But don’t stop there! Be open to being stretched, and discover how this new perspective on yourself helps you integrate better in ministry, or be a leader, partner, team player, parent, etc…
- We all have low periods in ministry when things seem relentlessly hard. Some periods are long, and some even longer. I was reminded at the conference that even though these times are hard, we learn from them, and they don’t last forever.
- The importance of balance in cross-cultural ministry: from self-care and serving others, to various types of relationships, to family and ministry, to open house and quiet time, to giving grace and setting boundaries, etc…
And while all of these were amazing takeaways, I was reminded that the core of Member Care is our connection with God. Every day at the conference we began and ended our days with a time called our “Spiritual Rhythm”, and it centered us on what is most important; God.
Well, there you go, from the girl who yelled “Member Care”. I hope you can find, wherever you are in ministry, a time and a place to regroup, reassess, rest or do the work that’s needed, grieve, process, grow, and return to your context feeling more alive, more focused, and more excited than you were before!