In the case of more Christian believers and fewer pastors in China, most of the pastors who are active in the grass-roots churches are also the church's lay preachers. Therefore, for the grass-roots church, how to do a good job of lay training for co-workers and letting them participate in the mission of the church in order to effectively teach the Bible and give pastoral care has had an important impact on the pastoral work of the entire church.
The Hou Zaimen church in Jinan, Shandong province has gradually found a suitable system for the development of the local church in the training of lay co-workers and the managing of the meeting points which is helpful for the spiritual growth of the believers.
Ten-year plan - lay co-workers receive systematic training.
For the church of Hou Zaimen, the period of training for a lay co-worker can be as long as a decade of systematic study of the Old and New Testaments.
Pastor Wang Wenhuan, director of the Hou Zaimen Church, explained to the Gospel Times' co-workers that the current group of lay co-workers from Hou Zaimen church began their training in the latter half of 2003. They study intensively twice a year for one month each time. It has taken essentially five years for the lay co-workers to systematically complete the New Testament, as well as courses in systematic theology, preaching, and missions. Pastor Wang thinks that it will take four to five years to learn the Old Testament.
"The number of lay co-workers participating in each study session has remained stable at around 30 to 40. Most of them have been able to steadily participate in each study session and their level is constantly improving," Wang said. "These lay co-workers serve at various meeting points. In the front line, they feel that it's more necessary to keep learning. Therefore, many lay co-workers are grateful for the time to be able to concentrate on their studies."
In addition to inviting local pastors to do training for lay church co-workers, Hou Zaimen church also attaches great importance to the actual effect of each period of lay co-worker training. After each training, all lay co-workers are required to complete the work assigned by the pastor, including personal acceptance and feelings. They also suggest how the training should be held including the teachers' expectations and suggestions for the next courses. The church pastor will also lead the students to make a summary.
In addition to the twice-yearly intensive lay co-workers training, the Hou Zaimen church convenes a meeting for the lay co-workers once a week as they serve at the various meeting points and are the main co-workers. "We talk about issues that have come up in the faith of believers and seek guidance from the Bible. At the same time, we also discuss the problems that need to be solved in each meeting place."
Community groups - do a good job of pastoral care.
With the improvement in the quality of the lay pastors and a suitable management mode for the church, the believers naturally receive better pastoral care. This makes up for the lack of the church's caring ministry. In addition to attending Sunday worship and weekly church worship, most believers of the Hou Zaimen church also have their own meeting place. According to Wang, the church has more than 30 meeting places. Almost every large community has a meeting place and each meeting place has from less than 20 to 30 people up to more than two hundred people.
The Hou Zaimen church's visitation ministry to the believers is basically done in the meeting place. The co-worker of the meeting place can easily know the believers' religious condition. He/she can help if they are able. And if they are unable, they can apply for help from the church. A network of pastoral care has basically been formed for this. And for some brothers and sisters who are busy with work and do not belong to a meeting place but usually attend church worship during the week, the church pastor will get to know this small group of people and more easily give them care. Among the meeting places, there is also a meeting place for overseas Chinese. a group of overseas Chinese gather in a fellowship led by an older pastor from the church.
The Hou Zaimen church has adopted this model of pastoral care, which was started gradually in 1995. Drawing on a model of family and community groups from a Hong Kong Church, Hou Zaimen church has also strengthened its relationship with the church in the area of pastoral care.
Pastor Wang said that in the past, the church's members have moved around a lot, and some of them left in a spiritually weak state, without the pastors' attention. Since Hou Zaimen church has adopted the community group pastoral care model for more than ten years. Since it was initially systematized, believers' commitment to the church has been increasing, and spiritual life has been showing continuous improvement.
-Translated by Heirs Han