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A dear person in your congregation is diagnosed with cancer. Another is going through a divorce. Still another has lost a family member in a tragic car accident. You want to show you care; you want to reach out in Christ’s name—but the thought of sitting down and talking with these people face to face puts a lump in your throat. What if you can’t think of anything to say? Or, worse yet, what if you say the wrong thing?

If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. Karen Mulder and Ginger Jurries of Holland, Mich., have led “Caring and Compassion” workshops for pastors, elders, deacons, small-group leaders, and friends who want to be better equipped to provide care in crisis situations.

Mulder and Jurries went on to interview a broad range of people who had experienced crises to discover how friends ministered to them most effectively and sensitively. The result is a resource book titled The Compassionate Congregation: A Handbook for People Who Care, published by Faith Alive Christian Resources.

The handbook includes stories and advice for caregiving in nearly two dozen categories such as abuse, AIDS, aging, cancer, death, depression, illness, substance abuse, and unemployment.

Council members at Bethel CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa, have been studying the Compassionate Congregation handbook at the beginning of each council meeting. Pastor Stephen Rhoda says the aim is to help council members gain a greater level of comfort in their pastoral care efforts.

“We’ve appreciated this handbook because it puts us right in the shoes of those going through various situations in life,” Rhoda said. “We’ve gained something from each topic so far.”

Carol Slager, director of congregational life and education at Modesto (Calif.) CRC, taught a 10-week adult Sunday school class on compassion last fall. She used The Compassionate Congregation as well as 90% of Helping Is Just Showing Up by Rev. James R. Kok (also published by Faith Alive).

“We found Rev. Kok’s course to be very helpful,” Slager said, “especially the chapter on whether we’re ‘players’ or ‘umpires.’ It challenged us to be slower to make judgment calls and quicker to come alongside people.”

The Compassionate Congregation and 90% of Helping Is Just Showing Up, as well as other caregiving resources, are available from Faith Alive Christian Resources at 1-800-333-8300 or

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