By Rick Strunk
Nurturing has always been an important part of how OrangeUMC operates.
In fact, it is part of what makes this church special and is even delineated in the OrangeUMC mission statement, that “Orange will develop fully devoted followers of Christ by welcoming, proclaiming, encouraging, nurturing, serving and sending.”
The Nurturing ministry team at OrangeUMC takes this seriously, and the vision for the team is “for every person who is a part of OUMC to feel connected, supported and loved well.”
That can be more challenging for a larger church that has multiple worship services, but one effort that the team undertook during September is what it has been calling its “telecare” ministry.
Associate pastor Wallace Johnson explains the origin of this sort of ministry. “I began to feel frustrated with the number of conversations I had with people who shared with me their deep hurt of not feeling supported by their Orange family during their time of need,” Wallace said. “I heard multiple times in varying words, ‘my loved one died and I never heard one word from my church family asking about me.’ These are the sorts of comments that haunt a pastor’s dreams at night. When I mentioned my experiences to our OrangeUMC Nurture Team, the group agreed we must work to make every person at Orange feel loved.”
After some brief conversation, the team noticed that it was largely people who are not connected to a Life Group who have the greatest potential for feeling disconnected from life at Orange. Wallace noted, “A few people on the Nurture team identified every person in our database who is not actually involved in a Life Group. We then divided up names and called to check in with people to let them know we really do care deeply for them.”
Again, the purpose was simple— just to check in, perhaps answer any questions people might have about the church or its programs, provide an encouraging word and then pass along any prayer requests if the person offered any.
There were some cases that members of the team just had to leave a message if a couple of efforts to call did not result in anyone picking up. And there were some folks that were just really surprised to get such a call.
“I talked to one member of the church that seemed to be a little hesitant,” said one member of the nurturing team who participated in the calling, “as though she was wondering what I was going to ask her to do or mention giving or something like that. I finally said, ‘You may be waiting for the other shoe to drop but there isn’t one!’ We are just calling to check in, make sure folks are doing well and respond to any needs or questions you might want to share. After that, the conversation changed and she didn’t seem worried about what she ‘might have to do’.”
The idea for this kind of ministry has been around for a while. “ ‘Telecare’ was an idea we received from a long-time Orange member who had led a similar event many years ago,” said Wallace. “Telecare is simple: it is a contact from one of the people on our Nurture team at OrangeUMC with the purpose of checking in on you and your family. There is no hidden agenda or long term plan. We simply want to know how you are doing and let you know this is a place to be loved and nurtured in times of need.”
The Nurturing team is discussing plans to do this again sometime next year.