Church worker care begins from a place of shared weakness. It begins as we are found vulnerable together in Christ. Paul expressed this shared need to the Corinthians:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
—2 Co 1:3-4
The comforted comforting. The helped helping. The needy meeting the needy in, with, and through Christ. Far from those who have it all together helping those who don’t, church worker care takes shape as those who have struggled under the cross (and still do!) meet other cross-bearing travelers along the wearying and winding paths of ministry.
So, how do we meet in our weakness to help one another? How do we share together in our vulnerability at the cross? We listen for and listen to. We listen for hurts, for needs, for opportunities to help and be helped, for sure. But that happens as we…
Listen to the Word
Our Father’s lamp for our feet and light for our path (Ps 118:105) is revealing (sometimes, more so than we’d like). As you “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest,” consider how the instruction of Scripture invites your care for other workers, as well as your care for yourself. Many a daily devotion has made me pause and ask, “Is this an area of my life I need to be thinking about more?” “Does a brother or sister in Christ need my help with this?” Listen to the Word’s guidance.
Listen to God’s People
Clergy killers and gossips aside, I believe most congregation members do have the well-being of pastors and church workers in mind. Listening to the faithful can be helpful and insightful. I’ve learned the hard way that not giving adequate time or credence to their gently expressed concerns can cost in the long run. Yet, it is those closest to us and our fellow workers who know us best; and it is they who endure life and ministry with us—for better and for worse. Spouses, children, fellow workers: when these begin to speak and act in ways that express concern, it’s time to pay attention. Their cries for help are just as important (and revealing) as our own. Listen to God’s people around you.
Listen to Yourself
Ever have a gut feeling that something was off? That someone was in need? Perhaps that wasn’t just your gut speaking; maybe it was an endocrine nudge from the Holy Spirit—one that shouldn’t be ignored. Or maybe your conscience has been prodding you to speak with a co-worker (or to give attention to an aspect of your own life). It can be helpful to listen to and discern those voices within–especially since the Holy Spirit is at work within us as new creations in Christ. If you sense something off in yourself or a fellow worker, don’t ignore it. Listen to yourself.
The grace of Christ shared together by needy and vulnerable Christians: that’s what church worker care is. Most often, it begins with the simple act (and art) of listening. Listening brings us to a place where we can cry together, seek comfort and healing together in Christ, and call out together in praise:
Of Him who did salvation bring,
I could forever think and sing:
Arise, ye needy, He’ll relieve,
Arise, ye guilty, He’ll forgive.
Ask but His grace, and lo, ‘tis given!
Ask, and He turns your hell to heaven:
Though sin and sorrow wound my soul, Jesus, Thy balm will make
it whole. Amen.
Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Closing Prayer in For All the Saints, vol. 3, p. 384
If you’d like to learn more about church worker health, contact Rev. Gene Wyssman at Gene.Wyssmann@mo.lcms.org.