Rethinking Care Teams

Many Sunday Schools have organized the class to better meet the needs of the group. The goal of care teams usually centers on making sure specific needs of group members don’t go unmet, or they function as a tool for keeping up with all the people in the group. There is nothing wrong with these objectives, and they both have value.

Let’s look back at Flake for a moment. Flake emphasized that everyone can serve in some way in and through the Sunday School. What if we thought of care teams as a means of providing a vehicle for people in the group to serve as opposed to only as a way of discovering needs?

If we begin to think in terms of finding ways for people to serve, then we may also realize the fallacy of the teacher doing it all. We may be able to keep up with everyone in the group, but at what expense? We have people in the group who can serve, and we are cheating them out of the opportunity by not letting them do so. The greater goal is not about keeping up with the group. The greater goal is helping the people in the group develop and grow spiritually, and serving is a means of accomplishing that.

Creating Care Teams

Let’s look at the steps we may need to take to establish, re-institute, or redefine care teams.

We need to begin by defining what we are trying to do. In the past we may have defined the purpose in terms of keeping connected with everyone on the ministry list. Instead, we need to find a way of bringing serving to the forefront. We might use terms like providing a vehicle for serving, for making a difference in the lives of others, and growing through serving others.

The purpose of care teams is different from the prayer partners suggested in Chapter 2. Prayer partners are about building community while care teams are about providing a means for serving. Both involve prayer, but they do so with a very different focus in mind. We could combine the two with prayer partners being assigned within care groups, but doing so may impact the fostering of community within the group as a whole.

How can you redefine for your group the purpose of care groups in terms of serving?

After we articulate the purpose, we can then focus on the specifics. We need to define the expectations for each care group leader. Do we expect them to simply contact the people on their lists and offer to pray for them or will we expect them to do more? What do we consider a contact—text, call, or personal visit? We may want to incorporate a monthly prayer time at the end of the group time for care groups to pray together. If we do that, then potential care leaders will want to know that they are responsible for facilitating that prayer time. Communicating clear expectations to potential care leaders helps them know when they succeed.

Next, we can focus on determining how many care groups we will need. If we lead a co-ed group, we need at least two care groups, one for the men and one for the women. A good rule of thumb would be one for every four to seven group members of the same sex. The number of people assigned to each care group needs to be manageable and allow for more to be added as the group reaches more people.

Some may choose to exclude those who never attend, missionary members, prospects who have yet to attend, or those who attend every Sunday. It makes sense that we include everyone on the ministry list. The smaller the number of people we include, the less the opportunity to serve. We may want to create a care group made up of only missionary members (people who would be in our class if they were not teaching elsewhere), but we need to include them in some way.

If we have nineteen on our ministry list, plus four missionary members serving in other groups, we will need four to six groups (if starting with groups of seven, 19 + 4 + us = 24; 24 ÷ 7 = 3.4 so we round up to 4; if you start with groups of four people, 24 ÷ 4 = 6).

Once we know how many care groups we need, we can then consider how we will secure these care leaders. Every option comes with pros and cons to each. We can present the idea of care groups, asking for volunteers to approach us. Some who we never thought would be interested will express interest, which can be a pro or a con. We can identify people who could (and should) serve and approach them individually until we secure the number we need. This puts the burden on our backs, but we know the people we approach will be vetted. We might even consider a three or six month rotation system, giving everyone the opportunity to serve as a care leader in the course of one or two years. The only problem is not everyone will want to serve, so this leaves some holes. Some have even utilized an alternating month approach to involve more, but this also can create an inconsistent atmosphere.

What approach of selection do you believe will best serve your group and why?

While we are on the subject of rotation, we need to consider the length of time we are asking care group leaders to serve. Providing a set end date makes it more inviting for the recruit. In most cases, a commitment of one year works best. We can give them the opportunity to do it again after a year and may even give them a different group for which to care. If a group has a difficult time committing to a year, we might even consider a six-month commitment. The issue is setting a time that works for the group and then sticking with it.