While working with many different church partners, discussions of a healthy care system have come up many times. My opinion on the matter has changed over time with my spiritual growth as well as my practical experience in working with people in need. I have directly worked with 1000's of individuals in need and at times in the past have struggled to keep healthy boundaries.
As you may or may not know, One Need was created from my personal desire to help people in need. In 2009 I spent much of my time looking for people in need and trying to find ways to help them. The One Need Care System was just the sum of the logical next steps in an effort to help more people in a bigger way. From a unified interest in caring for people Jesse Horne, Brian Watkins and I joined forces in 2010 and founded One Need. Together we were able to make the One Need Care System a reality and today, with the help of our partnership with This Hope, One Need does the same thing it has done form day one, attempt to help people.
So, in reality One Need is no different than your personal ministry. It functions in the same way. That is why I felt it important to share what I have learned about helping people in an effort to hopefully help you with your personal ministry. I have identified 5 key ideas and I keep them written on the whiteboard in my office. I read them almost daily and they help me help others, create balance in my life, and give me a path to ministry longevity.
1.) You Can't Run on Empty - If you have flown on an airplane before you have no doubt been given the instructions to place the oxygen on yourself first before you help others. This is really smart instruction because if you can't breath, you will not be able to help others for very long. The same holds true in care ministry. You have to be connected to God or you are not going to be very useful. You are also in danger of doing a lot of damage to yourself and others. I believe this is the most critical of all of the ideas I work from. Make sure you are connected to the true vine before you try to help others.
2.) Be Available - You must be available. However, you are not in a customer/vendor relationship. You do not need to be available in a customer support type of way. We must be available in a personal relationship kind of way. We must insist that the people we are helping treat us in a reasonable way while we treat them as new friends.
3.) Seek To Understand - One of the greatest joys of care ministry is the opportunity to understand others. It is super important not to make prejudgements before engaging in a conversation. This is really tough because we are hardwired to make prejudgments for our safety. However, in care ministry every single person must be treated like a new event. Like a coin flip, it is an entirely new event every single time.
4.) Love them ALL - Jesus instructed us to love everyone...even the mean people....even when people are not so lovable. Regardless of why they are hurting, the fact is that they are hurting. This may sound strange, but think of it this way. Try to remember back to a time when you were in physical pain. Maybe tooth pain, a kidneys stone, or child birth...how was your demeanor? Were you polite? Were you patient? Were you kind? Were you thinking of others first? It's critical not to make other people's actions or acting out about you. It is not about you. Let it go.
5.) Help Those That You Can When You Should - Seems simple right? Not always. Sometimes we have the ability to help people that we should not help and sometimes we don't have the ability to help people that we wish we could. We don't want to do for other people what they can and should do for themselves. This is not helping them. We also do not want to take a great life lesson away from them or "steal their bottom"; God's grace sometimes looks like consequences. Furthermore, we are not going to have the ability to fix every situation, no matter what tools or resources we have at our disposal. Don't let what you can not do sabotage what you can do. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have, when you should.
Remember, that we are fighting a spiritual battle while we are addressing worldly needs.
The Apostel Paul wrote: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12
Finally, lean on each other. You don't have to do this alone. Find Christian friends and talk to them about your experiences. Allow them to encourage you and comfort you. It is important.