Health ministry should be a vital component of parish life for many reasons. Obvious benefits of a healthier congregation can include better pastoral care, increased fellowship among parishioners, fewer hospital visits, and clergy who feel energized and physically well enough to take care of others. Individuals in a parish who begin living a healthier lifestyle often act as an inspiration to those around them.
However, there are other, less obvious benefits as well. An effective health ministry program can be a model for other ministries in the parish, as a healthy environment can be a common thread throughout all ministries and activities of the church. For instance, a health ministry team at an individual parish might ask the following questions, among others:
- How do our systems (meeting structure, interactions, etc.) contribute to a positive, healthy environment for our parishioners, clergy and staff?
- How are we utilizing teams effectively and engaging new parish members so that we do not ‘burn out’ the same volunteers repeatedly?
- Are our services and programs accessible to all? Do we offer options so that people with asthma/allergies can avoid incense, etc. if necessary?
- How do we identify those who are struggling or suffering and provide them pastoral care?
- Do we respect our clergy’s Sabbath time? How do we support their efforts to engage in a healthy lifestyle?
- Do we serve healthy, nutritious meals at parish events?
- How do we encourage parishioners to be physically active and provide them opportunities to deepen their relationships with each other through community?
These are just some of the questions that may be asked by the health ministry team at a parish. However, I think these questions hold equal relevance for the vestry, the clergy, altar guild, etc. Asking all ministries to engage in a thoughtful exercise about how they can include a health component provides many benefits that often become clear only in hindsight.
Just as individuals can act as role models for other individuals, excellent ministry programs can do the same for other parish ministries. The next step is to make your healthy congregation a model for other congregations, dioceses, and ultimately the whole church!
Matthew Ellis is the executive director of National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM).
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Each year, I look forward to reading two types of articles: Best-of Lists (especially music and film) and New Year's Resolutions. In this round-up, I'll point you to the best articles I found on the latter.
Each article includes a link and a short summary or extract from the article to give you an idea if it's something you want to read more closely. If you stick around for the end, I'll give you my pick for the year's best album and film.
2012 Can Be Better (No matter how good 2011 was):
A New Year's Resolution Worksheet: Most people, most years. have given up on their resolutions by about mid-January. In order to give you a better chance, I’m offering the following techniques below in worksheet format.
- Write down the payoff for achieving this that appeals to your values and emotions. For example, if you want to quit smoking, your compelling reason might be “I want to be healthy enough to dance with my 9 year old daughter when she gets married in about 20 years.”
- How will you remind yourself of this reason? (Perhaps a picture of your daughter, or a woman in a wedding dress, in your office.)
The Surefire Way to Make This Your Best Year Ever: The fact of the matter is that there is a much better approach to achieving success, which will guarantee a better year for you compared to all past years. In addition to education and acquiring knowledge, if you adopt the approach that you will no longer attempt to achieve all your goals in isolation, you will reach higher levels faster.
30 Days to a Better Man: (Please note: This is not a dating guide, but a 30 day project designed to help men improve themselves. However, there is a lot of good information here for everyone.)
- Day 2: Shine Your Shoes
- Day 5: Cultivate Your Gratitude
- Day 17: Talk to 3 Strangers
- Day 22: Improve Your Posture
Making resolutions and creating a 2012 Resolution Action Plan: If you fall into the group of resolution makers who wants to be better organized in 2012, the first thing to do is specifically identify why you want to be organized. Being organized isn’t usually a goal. Being organized is merely a path to achieving another goal. For instance, you might want to be better organized with your time after work so you finally get your business idea off the ground. You might want to be more organized with meal planning so you have less stress surrounding mealtimes with your family. Knowing why you want to be organized will help you with the remaining steps of the resolution-making process and with ultimately achieving your goals.
The Joy of Quiet: The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” He also famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
10 Simple Ways to Find Balance and Get Your Life Back: There are steps you can take to change what isn’t working and get back some control and balance in your life. And once you start seeing results you’ll be better equipped to maintain that new found equilibrium. The key is not to try to change everything at once, but to make small adjustments over time to determine what works for you. Eventually you will have a whole new set of positive life habits and you’ll never look back!
Sitting and Watching: It’s interesting, too, what we see when we sit and watch. We will notice others rushing, and worried, and angry, and in them see a mirror of ourselves. We will notice children laughing (or crying) with their parents, and remember what we’re missing when we rush to improve our lives.
How to Eliminate Your Unwanted Mail from Your Physical and Digital Inboxes: It's fun getting email and snail mail when you receive something you actually want, but that joy is easily overshadowed by the massive amount of mail you don't really care to read. Here's how you can clear out all that crap.
How to Start Your Information Diet: Author Clay Johnson believes that, much like junk food leads to obesity and health problems, junk information is killing our productivity, efficiency, and worse, feeding ignorance. His new book, The Information Diet, discusses this problem in depth. In this post, Johnson details how to kickstart your Information Diet for 2012.
Stop Whining and Start 2012 Off With Zero Unread Emails: Why is email so hard to manage? For geeks, it’s because we sign up to every damn service known to man, creating more and more junk in our inboxes. For everyone else, it’s because they are busy paying attention to other things, like their actual lives. Yes, I know, it’s different for everyone, but the problem is the same. What should we do about it? Mark them all as unread before we start 2012. Here are three reasons why.
Seven routines and guidelines to live as an unclutterer — no super powers necessary: To an outsider, an unclutterer can appear to have super powers. But, trust me, unclutterers don’t have the ability to wave a magic wand and instantly be clutter free and organized (although, that would be an amazing power to possess). Instead of magic wands, most unclutterers simply do a little work each day and adhere to a few simple guidelines to keep from being overwhelmed by an avalanche of clutter. These aren’t laws, but these are the routines and guidelines most unclutterers follow to keep clutter at bay.
Best Album and Best Film of 2011:
My choice for album of the year was released in January of 2011. Usually, an early release is a disadvantage for year-end lists. In this instance, it only gave more time for the album to bury its hooks. I wanted to listen to this more than anything else this year, so it is the logical choice. The album is Destroyer: Kaputt. Here is the opening song, Chinatown:
This is only my opinion, but the best film of the year is an easy choice. Nothing else I saw even came close to the magic of The Tree of Life:
For a complete round-up of World AIDS Day information, see the full post from National Episcopal AIDS Coalition at www.neac.org.
Resources for World AIDS Day
- Episcopal, ELCA Presiding Bishops issue World AIDS Day 2011 letter
- Archbishop of Canterbury's video message for World AIDS Day
- Secretary Clinton calls for 'AIDS-free Generation'
- World AIDS Day on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23WAD11
- NEACtion Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/NEACtion
- NEAC Resources for World AIDS Day
- World AIDS Campaign
- TheBody.com: World AIDS Day 2011
Help Make This Year the Beginning of the End of AIDS
Help make this World AIDS Day the beginning of the end of AIDS. Tell Congress that the United States must support Secretary Clinton's vision for an AIDS-free Generation by maintaining funding for PEPFAR, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, USAID HIV and AIDS programs, and the Global Fund.