Edward T. Welch, a powerful voice for addressing mental health in the church fearlessly and lovingly, has created a slim resource to be used in small groups called, Caring for One Another: 8 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships.
I received a digital copy of this resource for review from Crossway Books.
Let me begin my review with a disclaimer: I read this individually not in a group, so I can not speak to its effectiveness in facilitating conversation in a group. However, the content, writing style, and delivery make me feel pretty strongly that this will be a valuable resource to churches, families, and other community groups who desire to be in godly community with one another.
One awesome feature of the book, in regard to group use, is that each lesson is extremely short and intended to be read aloud as a group. It is designed to be homework-free!
There are typically only three questions for discussion per lesson. This shows acumen on Welch’s part. He delivers the information in a format and on a timetable that is practically accessible for the “real life” small group member.
This book is at its heart a call to “move toward” people not away from them. Move toward them when they suffer; move toward them when they sin.
Also, move toward others to enjoy them. Set out intentionally to delight in other people.
It is easy to see Christ immediately in these recommendations. God delights in us and is attentive to us, so should we be to others. God does not shy away from us, nor should we shy away from others.
This boldness does go two ways, Welch recommends developing humility by asking others for prayer and for help.
Classically in a “care ministry” we envision a stronger care “giver” and an invalid recipient of care. Welch immediately nips that idea in the bud, in “Lesson 1: With All Humility,” explaining that caring for others requires humility, which means that all parties must be willing to ask for help, most importantly the help of being prayed for.
Prayer continues to be central to Welch’s approach to creating a community of mutual care. He says that part of becoming more personal with someone, is to pray for them regularly. This focus expands in that, Welch exhorts his readers to become comfortable with praying over people, particularly if they are struggling with sin.
Here again, we get the impression that Welch believes our care for others must be intimately tied up in our conviction of God’s care for us. Both the styling and methodology of our caring should be merely a re-enactment of the love we receive from Christ. In the way God loves us, we, like children do, imitate our Father, and act that love we’ve witnessed out in our every day.
There is endless chatter these days about community and relationship and “living life together.” These 8 lessons for cultivating relationships are the most practical– and I wager most viable– suggestions for actually accomplishing community, relationship, and togetherness that I’ve seen.
These 8 lessons are even possibly the only viable plan for achieving the kind of authentic relationships the church craves, for one important reason– Welch incorporates caring relationships into our individual Christian walk, our individual Christian disciplines, and our typical Sunday small talk.
Rather than chiding church-goers for being chilly and aloof to each other, he explains how to move from small talk to deep and sensitive conversations. He takes a person with an established prayer life, and explains how even that is a place to invest in a new friend.
We can only build on what we know. And that is what Edward T. Welch teaches in Caring for One Another— simple, non-technical, understandable, universally achievable ways for laypeople to extend our relationships with Jesus into our church relationships.
Jesus says in John 17:25-26 that his work was to reveal the Father to the disciples, and that he would continue to do so until “your love for me will be in them.” Welch describes in an easily-digestible manner, the only skill all Christians need– the ability to give to others the love given to them.