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Church and Health Ministries About Us

About Faith Community Nursing and Health Ministries

The history of faith community nursing and health ministries
Many faith communities in Greater Louisville are now part of an organized worldwide movement to encourage healthier lifestyles for their members. Promoting personal responsibility for health and wellness of body, mind and spirit is a natural role for faith communities. This movement is called by several names, including health ministries, parish nursing and faith community nursing. All medical professionals as well as other church members interested in health and wellness can be involved.

Historically, there has been a blending of physical, mental and spiritual approaches to health and healing. Early civilizations turned to spiritual leaders, elders and others known for their ability to heal. The Old and New Testaments are filled with references to healing, and healing was central to Jesus' ministry. In the Middle Ages, monasteries dedicated entire wings to caring for the ill. It was religious groups that brought the concept of hospitals to the United States.

In recent centuries, scientists seeking empirical evidence separated physical, mental and spiritual health; however, current understanding of the inter-relationship of all aspects of our being has brought new appreciation of whole-person health. Faith communities, where people congregate, form values and have trusting relationships, are reclaiming their role of promoting whole-person health among their members and people in the surrounding communities.

Parish nursing, now often called by the more inclusive name of faith community nursing, evolved in the United States as the result of a vision of Lutheran pastor and chaplain Granger Westburg. In the 1970s, Westburg worked with Chicago's Lutheran General Hospital to develop clinics that would treat the whole person. Westburg saw the role of the "nurse in the church" as the key to holistic care. In 1984, Lutheran General developed the first paid parish nurse model with six nurses, each assigned to a church.

In the 1980s, Lutheran General created what is now the International Parish Nurse Resource Center to provide education and materials to parish nurse programs in Chicago and beyond. The Resource Center is now located at the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tenn.

Furthering Westburg's vision, the Health Ministries Association in Dayton, Ohio, was formed in 1989 as a professional body with a membership of nurses and others dedicated to health ministries. This organization officially represents faith community nursing with the American Nurses Association. In 1995, these organizations collaborated to publish "Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice," which was last revised in 2012.

As a faith-based, not-for-profit health care organization, Norton Healthcare opened the Office of Church and Health Ministries to help faith communities begin or enhance health ministries. Contact to learn more.


What is a faith community nurse?


A faith community nurse is a spiritually centered registered nurse who volunteers or is hired within a faith community. Faith community nurses work with congregational leaders to support the ongoing transformation of the faith community into a source of health and healing.

What does a faith community nurse do?
The American Nurses Association recognizes faith community nursing as a specialty practice that views health as a dynamic process encompassing the whole person and beyond — body, mind, spirit, relationships and environment. Faith community nurses come to the practice with a deep spiritual commitment, recognizing that spiritual health is at the core of a person's well-being. They strive to promote healthy lifestyles for all ages through the integration of faith and health. Services provided by faith community nurses vary with the expertise of the nurse and the needs of the congregation and surrounding community. Faith community nurses may:

  • Advocate for excellent care for the sick and for justice within the health care system
  • Offer a sense of hope for individuals with a disease, being aware that healing can happen without cure
  • Provide individual and group education
  • Provide health screenings, counseling and referrals
  • Coordinate volunteers
  • Develop support groups
  • Visit the hospitalized, homebound and others
  • Coordinate a health ministry team
  • Provide support and services individualized for congregations

What are some activities that might occur in a healthy faith community?

  • Blood drives
  • Blood pressure and cholesterol screenings with emphasis on education and referral
  • Diabetes awareness education
  • Drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs
  • Flu shots/health fairs
  • Grief support
  • Healing services
  • Heart health education
  • Medical and mental health awareness
  • Physical activity classes
  • Nutrition counseling and weight loss education
  • Parenting tips/classes
  • Safety seminars
  • Visiting the sick and homebound
  • Advocacy for social justice

What is Health Ministry? 

Definition of health ministry (Health Ministries Association Inc., 2011)

A. Health ministry is an intentional faith-based service ministry designed to promote health and wellness, prevent disease and facilitate healing and wholeness in groups and individuals.

B. A health minister may be any person who feels called to health ministry and is affirmed by his or her community in this calling. A health minister may be someone other than a faith community nurse, clergy or chaplain.

C. A health minister is a servant leader with a commitment to show the love of God through promotion of health, healing and wholeness.

D. A professional health or ministry background is not required to be a health minister.


Comparison of Health Ministry Team and Faith Community Nurse roles 

Comparison of health ministry team and faith community nurse roles
(Health Ministries Association Inc., September 2012)

Health ministry team roles
Members include nurses who do not function as faith community nurses, social workers, other professionals and those with gifts for serving

  1. Identify existing ministries to avoid duplication and competition.
  2. Survey faith community to determine health interests.
  3. Prioritize needs of faith community.
  4. Facilitate programs and health initiatives without in-depth personal interaction or detail.
  5. Communicate health concepts to the faith community.

Faith community nurse roles
Currently licensed registered nurse; colleague of pastor

  1. Integrates faith and health into faith community's ministries.
  2. Provides health education and counseling to individuals and groups.
  3. Assesses and refers individuals and groups.
  4. Documents findings and outcomes.
  5. Acts as liason for community health resources.
  6. Advocates healthy practices.
  7. Develops support groups and care teams.
  8. Complies with guidelines in "Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice"

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the Health Ministries Association (HMA) announce a new certification through portfolio for Faith Community Nursing. The certification process will serve to validate faith community nurses’ unique knowledge, skills and contributions to patient care. Information on the certification program is available at

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