Basis for Care: Need Vs Merit

Each Caregiving Team determines who they will serve. Some decide they will only provide respite for caregivers and as a result do not accept referrals for care partners who live alone. Others decide their Team will serve only members of their own congregation. It is important for the Team to define the population and type of service they feel called to provide. This policy should be designed with input and guidance from the clergy or congregational staff member because the Caregiving Team is an expression of pastoral care provided by the congregation. Occasionally a Team will determine that a care partner does not “deserve” service from the Team since they have family members who could be providing care, or that the care partner made some bad decisions that brought this problem on his or herself. A more common reason for not accepting a care partner is that the family is thought to be able to afford to pay for a provider. There are legitimate reasons (care partner does not fit team mission, not enough Team members to provide adequate care, care partner is too far away) for opting not to accept a new care partner. Basing care on any consideration other than need is problematic because it is not scriptural and fails to express the value of Caregiving Team ministry.  Caregiving Team ministry provides a special connection of the care partner to their congregation. Team members are received into the home open only because they are viewed by the care partner as representing their congregation’s care and all that that means to the care partner. Therefore, the transactional gift of care provided by the Team is qualitatively different. The care partner experiences it differently than the care a family member or paid worker provides because it is grounded in a mutual voluntary relationship. Even though the task accomplished may be identical, the care partner may feel like, “my congregation is taking care of me,” or “I am remembered by my congregation.” Thus, the care given flows from God’s faithfulness to humanity. A spiritual understanding of the care being received allows access into the home as it reminds us, each and every visit, of God providing care through their community of faith. Thus, there is a sense of being embraced and remembered by God’s people. The message given to care partners through their experience of receiving care is that, “this is what community does; the children of God bear the burdens of other children of God.”

701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995 |


The Team member can and often does derive meaning from loving and caring this way. Through tender acts of hospitality and support, Team members are participating in the ongoing story of God’s relationship to humanity. This may take shape in the spiritual growth of Team members. (Earl Shelp and Ronald Sunderland, Sustaining Presence. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000, p. 61). Caregiving Team ministry can also provide a sense of identity for the persons involved. Being engaged in ministry can foster a sense of vocation and purpose. (Roy Fairchild, “Retirement,” in The Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, ed. Rodney Hunter, Nashville: Abingdon, 1990. Pp. 1081-2.) This sustained sense of identity has implication for Caregiving Team ministry. A case in point, many Team members are approaching retirement or are already retired. Serving on a Caregiving Team can help to maintain a sense of usefulness to the community and may improve their own quality of life by giving them purpose, meaning, satisfaction during a time of life and role transition. Ronald Sunderland says it this way, “The claim of people who are chronically ill or disabled upon the compassion and nurture of the congregation is sharp and clear. Failure to respond with love expressed in prophetic word and hands-on love is a denial of our identification as a servant people of a just and loving God.” (Earl Shelp and Ronald Sunderland, Sustaining Presence. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000, p. 50.) There are numerous scripture passages which give the congregation of faith the responsibility of serving those in need: Lev. 19: 18; Deut. 10: 18; Ps. 146; Jer. 7: 1-7; and Matt. 25: 31-46. The scriptures are quite clear, so, if there is a need by someone referred for Care Team® ministry, that person becomes a neighbor. The Caregiving Team has a responsibility to respond. In responding with loving care, the Team becomes an extension of the people of God, embodying God’s love in the world. Caregiving Team ministry seeks relationship with the other so that both parties may have more meaningful lives. Russell Burck describes this as a “special bond that can exist in a community of care…that makes available healing and sustaining power” for all parties involved. He describes how relationships of support, empathy, and shared vulnerability create deep connections between both parties in a caring relationship. Such relationships are an avenue through which people can find meaning in life and/or experience the sacred. (J. Russell Burck, “Community, Fellowship and Care.” in The Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, ed. Rodney Hunter, Nashville: Abingdon, 1990. pp. 202-3)

701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995 |


Exercise: Do we accept this care partner? Read the profile of each person and have the team discuss whether or not they would partner with them. Using a white board or easel, list the needs of each person and the pros and cons of entering into a caring relationship with him or her. Have the team take some time to reflect upon their own call to be in service, the needs of the care partners, and what entering into relationship could mean for both the prospective care partner and the Caregiving Team.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith is an 80 year old widower who lives alone. Though he is not a member of the congregation, he lives a few blocks from the church/synagogue and has been involved in community activities at the church/synagogue. Joe’s son Bob contacted us because he feels his father needs some help. Bob is a lawyer/politician who lives in Austin and can only see Joe two times a month or less. Joe says he could use help getting around town. His eyesight is poor, so he no longer drives. He says the only time he gets to be out and around people is when his son makes it into town. Some weeks Meals on Wheels is his sole personal contact. Joe uses a walker when outside of his home, but is relatively healthy otherwise. He enjoys talking politics and listening to jazz.

Evelia Zapata
Evelia Zapata is a 94 year old widow. She has outlived both her daughter and son. Her three grandchildren live out of state. They visit as often as possible, usually every 2 months or so. She had hip surgery recently. She has visiting nurses to check on her healing incision and for some physical therapy. Apart from these visits, Evelia reports rarely seeing or talking to anyone. Evelia loves baking and entertaining, but she says all her friends have died or moved closer to their own families. She is bilingual, would enjoy a Spanish speaker, but is fluent in English. In addition to companionship, she needs help with transportation and small household tasks. Evelia lives in a trailer park in a less desirable section of town a few miles away. Evelia is afraid to use Metro Lift.

Marta Kaplan
Marta Kaplan is a 72 year old divorced woman who is estranged from her family. She has attended the congregation sporadically as a visitor over the past few months. Recently, she came into the office to ask for assistance. Marta has multiple health problems. Of note are cirrhosis of the liver and emphysema. Marta is in a wheelchair and uses oxygen. She relies on Metro Lift for transportation to and from her doctor’s appointments. Marta reports being lonely and says she would enjoy a friend who likes playing cards. She is a smoker and lives with two cats.

701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995 |


The Parkers
Sarabeth and Thomas Parker are a couple in their 80s. They attended this congregation faithfully for years and are still members despite not being able to attend regularly in the past few years. Sarabeth has a few memory problems, but she gets around well. Thomas had a stroke about 5 years ago and needs a good bit of physical assistance. However, his mind is sharp as a tack. Their son, Jim, who lives in Houston, has arranged for a part-time caregiver to come in 3 times a week for a few hours each time. The couple cannot drive. Sarabeth says she misses her quilting club, and Thomas complains about always being surrounded by fussy women. During his last visit home, Jim heard about the Care Team® and asked if there was anything we can do. Discussion questions: What needs does this care partner have? How could we attend to those needs? Should we take this person on, why or why not? What does our acceptance or rejection say about us?

Related Modules: Guiding Principles Ministry of Presence Spiritual Foundation of Ministry Gift of Relationship

Written by Marvin Hines

701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995 |


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