Introduction and Statement of Need
(*Congregation is used as a generic term that also includes Church-related Outdoor, Camp and Retreat ministries.)
Did you know that 67% of veterans surveyed report that the single-most important factor of a successful transition home is attendance at the weekly worship service, and that over 40% of returning veterans first come to clergy for assistance – more than all behavioral health professionals combined? (From the National VA Chaplain’s Office). Congregation Care is a time-tested model that already works for many veterans! Risk Healing Connections is not about fixing something that is broken, but improving something that already works – and not just for veterans. Over one fourth of the members of any given congregation have experienced a traumatic event. The percentage is higher among church workers (clergy, youth workers, and camp staff) and even higher among those who work with groups considered at risk. Risk Healing Connections creates the climate of understanding and compassion needed by veterans and everyone when they undergo times of intense stress and vulnerability. Risk Healing Connections is rooted in the traditional, core spiritual practice of forgiveness, a practice that was originally at the heart and center of Seelsorge (Care of the Soul). Congregation care has far-reaching benefits.
Congregation care is not a new model, nor is it a new program. Congregation care is core DNA of the church – as old as the church itself. (1 Cor. 12:1-26; Philippians 2:1-4; Romans 12:15, etc.). However, Risk Healing Connections is different because it views the congregation setting as the primary context for veteran support, recovery and restoration to community – not the therapist’s office.
Early intervention, referral and good therapy is critical. It prevents damage and saves lives and equips veterans with skills and tools needed to heal and recover. However, therapy is short term. Congregation care is long term. Good congregation care builds solid relationships, anchors skills learned in therapy and provides safe contexts for telling one’s story. Restoration to a more satisfying life in community occurs in congregations where forgiveness, safety and trust are prized, preached and practiced week in and week out. Good congregation care is grace full.
Today, we understand more clearly than ever how forgiveness, safety and trust not only produce spiritual health, but how they also benefit physical health. Research demonstrates how trauma caused by human hands has a profound negative impact on our genes, chemistries and brains, but it also shows how care given by human hands generate hope and healing. Good congregation care is essential.
Risk Healing Connections helps congregations understand and practice the extreme hospitality needed when veterans and others in the congregation are feeling extremely vulnerable and stress sensitive. Risk Healing Connections teaches congregations how to weave best practices of forgiveness, safety and trust into existing ministries. Congregations who receive education and implement these practices:
• Immediately increase their capacity to help.
• Reduce chances of doing harm.
• Promote compassion satisfaction vs. compassion fatigue.
• Increase communal and personal care.
Risk the Healing Connections has four phases. Phase 1 (Introduction and Overview): Introduction to Risk Healing Connections sets the table for congregational discernment. Phase 2 RHC Congregation Care Teams trained. Phase 3 RHC Congregation Care Teams create a Healing Circle and find a ministry in the church to volunteer for a ministry makeover. Phase 4 Risk Healing Connections spreads to other ELCA Synods, Ecumenical Partners, congregations, seminaries, camps and retreat centers across the country. Congregations already involved continue to integrate features of forgiveness, safety and trust into other care ministries of the congregation.
Risk Healing Connections is sponsored by Welcome Them Home – Help Them Heal in cooperation with the Northeastern Minnesota Synod and the ELCA Bureau for Federal Chaplaincy Ministries. For more information contact: Rev. John Sippola: firstname.lastname@example.org