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Six ways churches answer the question of personal ministry.

"We hate to leave," wrote Nancy the day before the moving van arrived. "You have been such a caring church family, and we thank God for you!" I sat in my office and read and reread that letter. It felt good to be a church that cares.

In the middle of the tenth reading, the telephone rang. It was Fred. He, too, was leaving. "We haven't been to church in six weeks," he said, "and no one called us. No one seems to care. We won't be back."

I felt sad and angry and guilty all at once. I knew there was some truth to Fred's complaint. Our church seemed unable to care for him in the ways he needed. I felt the failure, and it didn't feel good.

Why did our congregation care so effectively for Nancy's family yet lose Fred through the cracks?

Primarily, I realized, because we had developed care strategies to respond to Nancy's kinds of needs, but none of our caring structures fit Fred's situation.

Every church wants to be known as "a church that cares." Most congregations realize this won't happen merely ...

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