CHATFIELD, Minn.—A favorite saying of Calvary Baptist Church is “Love God. Love others.” One way the church has encouraged its members to love others is by creating a Caring Tree on a hallway wall.
Hanging from the branches are index cards on which church members have written down their needs. Someone in the church body who can fulfill a need removes that card from the tree, contacts the person, and completes the job.
Pastor Mike Gittins gives these examples of needs that people might share: Perhaps a dining room table has broken; someone may have an extra table or can fix the broken one. A person going through a difficult situation might like to pray with another believer; those people can walk through the valley together. Someone may need help moving boxes into an attic; others can offer to help.
“We started the Caring Tree as a way to jump-start the practical side of being the Body of Christ,” Mike says.
Church members tended to know what was going on in each other’s lives (for example, experiencing a health issue, going to a medical appointment, hosting visitors), but they needed some encouragement to intentionally do life together and invest in each other spiritually.
For discipleship relationships to happen in the church body, members need to know each other well and spend time together outside of church; they need to walk through life together and show love and care in the ordinary details of life, Mike says.
So the short-term purposes of the Caring Tree are to encourage people to ask for help and to give others opportunities to serve by using their skills. But the long-term goal is for the church family to develop relationships that provide deep discipleship opportunities. Such discipleship will help the church grow spiritually from the inside out.
Essentially, the Caring Tree is an AED for the church body, says Mike, who is an EMT for an ambulance service. Like an AED resets a patient’s heart rhythm, with the goal of helping that person begin functioning well without the device, the Caring Tree resets what it means to be the Body of Christ.
Hopefully, the idea behind the Caring Tree will “become the rhythm of the lives of our people,” Mike says. “Ideally, someday, we won’t need the Caring Tree anymore.”