STUDY THREE: COMMUNITY CARE
© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2016
A. BIBLICAL BASIS OF COMMUNITY CARE
Here we look at the question: What does the Bible have to say about community care – about caring for the non-spiritual needs of people in both the Christian and secular community? We must be careful in our desire not to fall into the trap of the ‘social gospel’ that we do not go to the opposite extreme of failing to care for people’s physical needs at all.
A.1 Community Care Old Testament
When we read the Old Testament we find that there is great concern for the physical well-being of the community. There is concern for health, basic needs and social justice. Invariably when God was rejected there soon followed a decrease in social concern. In addition, true godliness is described in terms of caring for the needs of others.
What do these verses teach us about concern for the non-spiritual needs of the community?
Amos 2:6-7a; 4:1; 5:11;
List the implications of these verses for Christian and Church involvement in community care [social concern].
A.2 Community Care in the New Testament
The New Testament is similarly strong on caring for people’s physical needs. We see this both in the example and teaching of Jesus and in the practice of the early church.
What do these verses teach about helping people in need?
What are the implications for Christian and Church involvement in Community Care?
Make a list of the non-spiritual needs or situations identified in the Biblical texts from the Old and New Testaments.
B. CONTEMPORARY LOCAL AND GLOBAL COMMUNITY NEEDS
B.1 Common areas of need
In this section of the study the aim is to identify a range of local and broader/global areas of physical need.
List the areas of need, and what is already being done by a range of organizations (government, non-government and Christian:
In your local community?
In the broader and/or global community?
B.2 Your local church or organization's involvement in Community Care
There are some areas in which the church can be a primary supplier of care.
In other areas, or in on-going needs in some areas, it is more appropriate to refer the person in need to specialist care providers and/or government departments, both of which have the finance, facilities and staff to more adequately meet the needs.
Occasions arise that call for an extraordinary level of care – such as disasters, specific projects. In these situations the local church can facilitate the raising of special offerings or the sending of people to help, providing finance and motivating compassionate involvement.
What is your church or organization currently doing in the areas listed below?
Giving practical assistance [e.g. washing windows, mowing lawns] to the poor, aged or disabled within the church family. This will also include things like helping needy single mums in practical ways, linking ‘grandparents’ with families who are isolated from relatives. [Primary provider of care.]
What is your church or organization doing to help the needy in the local community? [Primary provider of care]
What is your church or organization’s policy regarding people asking for money or food? [Is there a written Community Care policy?]
Does your church or organization have food packages or food vouchers on hand? If so who is responsible?
To what other care organizations does your church or organization refer those it cannot help? [Church as a referrer.]
What is your church or organization doing to meet ongoing needs in the broader and global community? [Provider or facilitator.]
How does your church or organization respond to help in times of disaster? [Church as facilitator.]
B.3 Exercising wisdom in Community Care
When engaging in Community Care both understanding and wisdom are needed, not just compassion. The questions below draw attention to some issues on which information and/or boundaries need to be in place before embarking on a Community Care program.
Find answers for the following questions: [You may need to consult with your pastor, a government social security website, and/or an experienced care provider. The answers may be different in different communities.]
Why is it inadvisable to hand out money?
What are the alternatives to handing out money?
How can we distinguish between the really needy and those who are abusing the system?
What government assistance is available for people in times of unexpected shortage of money?
How can this be accessed?
What potential dangers are encountered in Community Care?
What are the main high risk situations?
What measures should we take to minimize exposure to personal danger?
When is it advisable to refer clients to other organizations?
What procedures are in place to break the cycle of need and dependency?
Are there any ways of recognizing if a client is at or near breaking point emotionally?
Are there any situations in which the Community Care provider could be liable to litigation?
How can these be avoided or minimized?
What potential opportunities are there to speak about Jesus Christ in the context of Community Care?