Faith-Based Ministry

Michael J. Readinger

Michael J. Readinger

Some folks find the words “faith-based ministry” scary. While I understand their viewpoint is often a product of a damaging religious experience, I would like to challenge that view.

I find faith-based ministry to be a reassuring and intentional way to look at delivering service to people on the margins. In the UCC, we talk about the core values of extravagant welcome, continuing testament and changing lives and we lift up the hope “that they may all be one”. While these principles come from the church, they are the shared values of all CHHSM member organizations.

The historical connection to the church and these values should not be scary. In fact, the words “faith-based ministry” are what drive so many organizations and their team members to provide extraordinary levels of service that go above and beyond the call of duty. Faith-based ministry is mission-driven, born out of a desire to satisfy the call to service that is spoken in the UCC’s core value statement. It is a product of the call to vocation so many servant leaders answer willingly and passionately. It is an expression of faith, knowing that serving others is the just and right thing to do. Perhaps it is easier to think of them as our “care values” instead of “core values”?

This issue of Diakonie illustrates some real-life examples of spaces where we’re living out our care values as they relate to the UCC’s core values:

They are spaces where our membership looks at CHHSM’s model for an ONA Covenant as a further expression of the policies they have instituted to create a work place and a home for those they serve that is safe, welcoming and inclusive. It is a space of acceptance, affirmation and culture change. It is an expression of our “care values.”

They are spaces that recognize and honor the tradition of leadership that many of our predecessors lived out in their daily work. The recent passing and memorialization of the life of Jerry Paul reminds me of this servant leadership with a focus on faith-based ministry and a life filled with his expression of “care values.”

They are spaces that welcome the transformative leadership development program we call the Nollau Institute. Leaders of all ages, levels of experience and faith traditions learn together about faith-based ministry as a means of satisfying their own vocational call while expressing the shared “care values” of our ministries.

They are spaces that lift up justice issues for those they serve by responding proactively to changes in social, political and economic factors.  Emmaus Homes has acted with great faith in creating a new care model for its Marthasville residents that reflects the best practices in its industry, financial stability, and good stewardship of the resources it has been entrusted with.

This vision of “care values” is reassuring to me. It offers hope to many in need. It provides a welcoming, continuing, changing way for those we serve. Though it is not church, it is the mission of the church embodied through our hands and feet.

So, the next time you hear the words faith-based ministry, don’t think of organized religion or church. Think of CHHSM, our member ministries and our shared “care values.” Think of gracious spaces where help is provided, lives are changed, welcome is extravagantly offered and the testament of service continues.

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