Care or Cure

Having spent my fair share of time the past three years around those in the medical community, I have a new appreciation for the balance required between the care and cure of the patient. I have experienced both the skilled hands of various surgeons to fix what is broken but also the loving compassion of the medical community at work to create an environment where healing and wholeness can be achieved.

Congregations in transition can find themselves in a similar situation and require the skilled hands of a surgeon to fix what’s broken and loving leadership to help facilitate the journey back to renewed health. This month I want to share a few words of Henri Nouwen from his devotional Bread for the Journey. These thoughts are very appropriate for the ministry of change and transition we find ourselves involved with.

"Care is something other than cure. Cure means “change.” A doctor, a lawyer, a minister, a social worker -- they all want to use their professional skills to bring about changes in people's lives. They get paid for whatever kind of cure they can bring about. But cure, desirable as it may be, can easily become violent, manipulative, and even destructive if it does not grow out of care. Care is being with, crying out with, suffering with, feeling with. Care is compassion. It is claiming the truth that the other person is my brother or sister, human, mortal, vulnerable, like I am.

“When care is our first concern, cure can be received as a gift. Often we are not able to cure, but we are always able to care. To care is to be human.”

Principles Supporting the Interplay of Care and Cure


To care is not the same as bringing a cure

Sometimes we are tempted to believe – if we just love them enough, they will change. Don’t get me wrong, love is essential in any change effort, but it isn’t usually enough. Change requires adjustments that are accompanied by pain, new levels of thinking and new behaviour that takes times to develop.

When my bone was broken, I needed a surgeon to put the broken pieces back in place before healing could start. To simply care for me wasn’t enough. I needed to get on the hard cold table and have the cure applied before healing could begin. Congregations in transition often need love and change if healing and health is to be realized.   

Certain skills are required to cure brokenness

A unique skill set is required to help facilitate a cure in the area of church health and transformational change during times of transition. Care alone won’t bring a cure. You often need an objective outsider speaking to a situation and bringing the necessary tools and facilitated conversations to bear.

Henry Cloud speaks about the value of the objective outsider who has the energy, tools and applies the necessary force to change the system: “Disorder and decline are not inevitable and can, in fact, be reversed if the system opens itself up to two things: a new source of energy and a template (a template is anything that serves as a guide, pattern, or model). You need force and you need the intelligence to inform action. If you have these two things, higher order functioning can take place.”

Cure without care can be harsh and leave us alone and hurting

Deep change must be wrapped in compassion and loving care. When people are being asked to let go of their past, change the way they do things, work out their differences, accept a new path, they need care to help them facilitate that difficult journey.

The surgeon uses his skill to remove, repair, realign, rebuild as necessary so healing is  possible. He also works in team with others to ensure the necessary care backs up the cure. The transitional pastor and coach, works in team with others to provide the cure and the care required to see people through to greater health and wholeness.

I believe that every transitional leader and coach can develop both the skill set (within the range of their gifts and calling) to facilitate a cure wrapped in the love and compassion of Christ. As we grow in character and competency, our ability to cure and care will grow with us.

Questions to Ponder

What are some tangible ways you demonstrate care for those you serve?

What gets in the way of compassion when working with congregations in transition?


What skills are required to facilitate some of the common health concerns found in congregations in transition?

What is your greatest strength as one who facilitates congregational cures? Where do you know you need to grow?



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Times of transition are windows of opportunity for churches to experience transformational turning points toward health and mission.

The goal of the Transitional Leadership Ministries is to train, resource and support those involved in this important area of Church health and help churches and denominations become better informed about this crucial time in a congregations life.

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