At a recent gathering of chaplains who serve in different communities in the LeadingAge Texas network, we shared many questions and concerns about the evolving marketplace. Specifically, we talked about how to preserve a spiritual focus in our communities, especially faith-based communities, given the competitive demands we see all around us. Perhaps one anxiety that drove us was that no one wanted to lose his or her job! I say that tongue-in-cheek; a truer anxiety would be that no one wanted to lose his or her influence – or relevance maybe – in being the “mission-bearers” of our faith-based identities. How do we keep serving the needs of our residents well while also raising the banner for the importance of our spiritual mission and identity?
One thing we attempt to do in the community where I serve is to talk about the role that every teammate plays in serving the spiritual needs of our residents. We do this at the very beginning of each new teammate’s orientation with our company – they are challenged to envision how they can have a spiritual impact on the people we serve (and the people with whom we serve) within their specific jobs. You might think this counterproductive; it sounds like I might be trying to write myself out of a job as a chaplain. Actually, the reverse is true. We approach it from the perspective that we each have a different role to play in meeting the needs of our residents. Each one must perform his or her role well to ensure that a person’s whole self is in good health. It’s a holistic approach.
I think this speaks to what ministry truly is. It’s meeting needs. All of our teammates have a ministry; our ministries just take different forms. Mine may include preaching and Bible Study, others may minister through preparing and serving meals, still others minister to a resident’s need for a clean room, the right medication, a secure facility, and the list goes on and on. All of us ministering together creates a stronger atmosphere of faith, even when different religious faiths may be represented within the resident or employee population. It creates a deeper sense of teamwork to be united around a vision of serving in ministry.
Perhaps I am still working myself out of a job, but I don’t think so. I think that a shared vision and passion for ministry is something that can strengthen a community and distinguish us from “the competition.” To strive towards a clear vision of service – that is a worthy mission indeed!