Probable Reality: It’s particularly easy to slip between the cracks at a mega church.
I have heard pastor after pastor declare, “We are going to knuckle down on this care thing if it’s the last thing we do. We haven’t done a very good job of it thus far, but that’s all about to change…” Then they set about instituting a radical attempt to change the way care takes place. I have seen this pattern repeat itself over and over. I am yet to see anyone crack the code on care other than this: Care can be accomplished fairly spontaneously by people who simply noticing that someone is in distress. Care systems are worthy goals to pursue, but they tend to bog down in their execution. They are inefficient.
At my own mega-church when my wife Janie was in the hospital for a week recovering from major surgery, we put our care structure to the test. I had personally designed this aspect of our system several years before. I thought we were doing an excellent job of following up on people who were hospitalized for example. To my chagrin, our system completely sputtered once I was able to examine it up close. None of our on-call visitation pastors came by. I was grateful it was us this happened to and not a newcomer to the church, yet this drove home the point–it’s easy to get lost in the mega church care scene.
I am convinced there is no system of care is all that foolproof. Let’s continue to set out to establish such approaches but it seems we are going to end up falling short if our hope is to bring about care in a system that is too large to spontaneously notice what is going on right under our noses. I have seen small group structures work somewhat efficiently in terms of care for practical matters at least for a time. However, it is inevitable that those in need of care are not in a small group at the time of their crisis. It is fine to preach the necessity of small group membership, but the reality is the majority in your church in the greatest need of care are not going to be involved in a system of care such as this.
There will always be an abundance of exceptions to the rule. In small to medium-sized churches care is spontaneously dealt with as people simply notice others aren’t doing all that well—the profound gift of noticing the obvious happens. In settings that are very large, such care is difficult if not impossible to come by. If we hope to do a great job at caring my vote is that we work toward establishing churches that are medium sized.