Health as Ministry

Date Posted: 4/13/2017

Congregations are partnering with Houston Methodist Hospital to launch the Golden Care Initiative in their communities.
Wanted:  Clergy and lay leaders looking for a creative ministry opportunity that combines congregational care and community mission and outreach.  “I like to think of Golden Care as Jesus 101,” says Rev. Kim Mabry, who is serving in extension ministry as the project manager for Houston Methodist Hospital’s Golden Care ministry. “You don’t have to know much about the Christian faith to know that Jesus was passionate about caring for the sick and the poor, but finding those who need the most help and being able to target exactly how to help them can be overwhelming.  But, that is where the hospital and the church can work together.” Statistically, she explains, a healthcare provider can often predict which patients are more likely to have complications that require them to come back in to the hospital.  This likelihood of readmission is usually due to problems such as a lack of healthy food, not being able to afford their medications, or not going to follow-up appointments due to a lack of transportation. Adds Kim, “These are all things that the church could help people overcome.”
The idea of Golden Care Ministry was introduced about a year ago by Dr. Rev. Charles Millikan, Vice President of Spiritual Care and Values Integration at Methodist Hospital. It is based on a congregational health ministry model created between community churches in Memphis, Tennessee and the Methodist Hospital of Memphis.  The Houston Methodist initiative aims to emulate the Memphis model but with a structure that serves the vastness of the Texas Annual Conference and Houston Methodist Hospital system. Golden Care officially began in September 2016 with the hiring of Rev. Mabry.  As project manager, she works to coordinate relationships and resources between congregations, communities and hospitals across the conference.  “This is a big job,” says Kim, “and the hardest thing has been learning to organize our plans in to manageable steps without losing site of the overall goal that Golden Care be an interfaith endeavor for hospitals and communities across the conference. But for now, we will start with the seven Houston Methodist hospitals and the UMC churches in and around the Houston area.”
“Our connectional system works beautifully to manage something as big as Golden Care,” says Kim. “With the help of the conference Mercy Ministry Committee, which works to help Rev. Mabry organize and implement local church involvement, Golden Care is working to collaborate the personal skills and communal resources of multiple congregations so that they might work together at the task of creating healthier congregations and communities.” In March, about 40 representatives from six or more congregations gathered in the La Marque south bay area to begin the conversation of how to foster a ministry of health in their communities. Leaders from Hitchcock UMC, CrossRoads UMC, Memorial Drive UMC, Missouri City UMC, FUMC La Marque, McKinney UMC, and FUMC Texas City shared how they are preparing to serve in this capacity. “FUMC LaMarque, for example, has two storage rooms of medical equipment,” notes Kim, “and McKinney UMC has identified several active and retired nurses within the congregation who are interested in visiting people who have been discharged from Houston Methodist Hospital. Additionally, passionate volunteers from UMC churches in Texas City are planning to involve their youth groups in projects such as building wheelchair ramps for congregation and community members with health issues involving mobility challenges.”
Other churches are getting involved in different ways. CrossRoads UMC hosted a health fair last month that can likely serve as a model for other congregations to implement. Representatives from The Rose, a nonprofit breast cancer screening organization, were on site, and CrossRoads did a great job helping attendees get connected to resources they need. In addition, Rev. Eddie Hilliard has been leveraging the Shelby database to scan the membership of Missouri City UMC to identify members in the medical profession who might have a passion for pursuing a health ministry program with Golden Care.
Golden Cross Becomes Part of Golden Care
“I’m excited to share that our conference leadership has agreed to reintroduce our churches to Golden Cross, a funding source established in 1921 to help assist those who might otherwise go without the medications and medical treatment they need,” shares Kim. “Approved individuals may access up to $3,000 per year for medical related expenses such as medications, exams, and medical devices.” This historical fund will be receiving the offerings from this year’s Memorial service at the Annual Conference. In addition, Golden Cross received approval as a 2018 missional advance where by any congregation can contribute at any time.
Great Opportunities
Anyone passionate about local mission or congregational care around health care and health related ministry will find a place in this new program.  “I like to think of Golden Care as a ministry that both reaches ‘out’ and reaches ‘in.’ When a church invites Golden Care to help it organize to receive referrals to help with patients discharging into vulnerable circumstances, they are inevitably organizing to help with the same sort of needs in their own congregations.  More Information, don’t miss the Church & Society Breakfast at Annual Conference Tuesday, May 30 from 7:30-9am where Rev. Kim Mabry will describe how a faith-based hospital and faith communities are working together to create healthier populations through the new Golden Care ministry. Or, stop by the booth to learn more about this exciting new outreach to “be the church” in your community.