Newsletter #411 – Integrating Faith and Practice

Every year I teach a graduate course or two on integrating our faith into our practice as caregivers, professionals, leaders or business people. Often the students go through three phases. First they want cookbook-type models for “doing integration.” I argue that each case is unique and that no one model fits everybody. This leads students to confusion and frustration because they’re not getting easy answers. Eventually they reach a stage of relief and freedom when they realize that integration comes out of who we are rather than from what we do or from which model or methods we seek to apply. I also give these general guidelines for integrating faith and practice:

  • Focus consistently on your own spiritual growth and relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Be aware of the values, expectations and worldviews that you reflect in your life and bring into your work.
  • Consistently draw on your training including your clinical, coaching or intervention skills. Integration is much more likely and effective if you demonstrate and keep growing in competence.
  • Consistently draw on your biblical and theological knowledge. It is not likely that you will be an effective integrator if you are biblically illiterate, ill informed theologically or insensitive to spiritual issues in yourself or your clients.
  • Post your values and procedures with clients if possible. Let them know in advance where you are coming from.
  • Know your employer’s expectations and assumptions. Is it appropriate, forbidden or expected that you will mention God in your work?
  • Seek to know your client’s assumptions and expectations about what will come from your work together.
  • Be aware of the environments where each client lives and works. What is his or her culture? What family dynamics and social trends shape each client and shape you as well.
  • Consult regularly with a respected supervisor, consultant or colleague.
  • Consistently seek the Holy Spirit’s. This is of crucial importance.

What would you add to this list of guidelines? Please click “comment” to share your conclusions with the rest of us.

    • Michael Sawyer
    • November 25th, 2010

    Very good list of directives for anyone involved in ministry/caregiving. I’ve been blessed to serve in law enforcement chaplaincy and in mentoring men through my local church. In both cases the issues are the same. Only the circumstances are altered.

    the only thing I would add is something that would, at first glance, appear obvious….that it, simply being there….and being there in a way that gives folks the opportunity to respond. I’ve found that many men (especially) are loath to pursue help…police officers are the worst by far…so to help people, we have to go where they are and always be available when they reach out.

    That seems like such a small thing, but for people just beginning a ministry of caregiving, to be effective in giving care, we have to be effective in giving ourselves first. How we do that, of course. It is ministry of presence.

    Good post Gary.

    • Thanks for your post. I have a friend who says the most important way to integrate/help sometimes is to “just show up.” So often we want to do something but the “ministry of presence” is what people need – not only at the beginning.

      Hey Michael, the photo suggests that you have a sense of humor so how do you respond to this: If you show up looking like you do in the picture you will have a ministry of scaring them to death. I don’t think I will add that to my list. I wonder if anyone agrees 🙂

  1. Excellent list; applicable to every are of Christian ministry – Will share it with other leaders who need this reminder.

    Thanks for this Thanksgiving blessing,
    Phil

    • Pia
    • November 26th, 2010

    I have found that to have a person/s praying for me and my specific work-related needs on a regular basis (i.e. chaplain at work) has done wonders. The opposite is also true.

    • I like this a lot. My own personal prayer is a key element of my work with I am with somebody but sometimes I forget the importance of having others pray for us while we are doing our work.

  2. Like your post, Gary!

    I have found the integration of 3Ms – Marketplace, Mentoring and Missions – to be vital for strategic ministry.

    For the integration of faith and work in the marketplace, the cultivation of community is helpful – a regular meeting of a prayerful community of keen reflective practitioners, who are committed to integrating faith and work, to make a decisive difference where God has placed each of us!

  1. November 25th, 2010

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