7 Facts You Should Know About Healthcare Sharing Ministries

7 Facts that you should know about Healthcare Sharing Ministries

Written by Richard Best

February 11th, 2016

As an alternative to traditional health care insurance, health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) have been in existence for many years; however, they have only recently experienced surges in membership as a result of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that began in 2010. Through its mandate, the ACA has forced many people into buying health insurance. Some have found health insurance to be too expensive, not sufficient to meet their needs or incompatible with their religious beliefs. This has raised the profile of HCSMs, resulting in more media attention and questions from the general public as to what they are all about. The following are seven facts about HCSMs everyone should know.

1. HCSMs Facilitate Medical Cost Sharing

An HCSM is a nonprofit organization that pools together monthly deposits made by members to pay for medical costs incurred by members. Members generally pay their own low medical costs, but when they have large medical expenses, they contact the ministry, which then facilitates the sharing of the costs among members. If the medical bill presented meets the eligibility requirements, and the member has already covered his annual unshared amount, the bill is shared.

2. HCSMs Coverage Is Not Insurance Coverage

HCSMs do not provide insurance coverage. There is no PPO or HMO. Members pick their own medical providers, negotiate their own costs and pay their own medical expenses. The ministry is there to provide financial assistance for covered treatment or procedures after they occur.

3. HCSMs Are Not Bound by Regulation

Because HCSMs do not provide minimal essential coverage as described by the ACA, they are not bound by any state or federal regulations to provide the same level or type of coverage as other health plans. They are not required to offer any guarantee of coverage. In addition, if an HCSM becomes insolvent, members have no recourse for recovering any monetary losses.

4. Eligible HCSMs and Their Members Are Exempt From ACA Requirements

When the ACA was being written, members of Congress had an exemption added under the same principle that allowed the Amish to be exempted from the law’s requirements. The main eligibility requirement for the exemption is an HCSM had to be in operation before Dec. 31, 1999. In addition, an HCSM must meet the following requirements:

• Be a nonprofit organization as described under section 501(c)(3);

• All members must share in a common belief system and share medical costs according to these beliefs;

• Members cannot be disqualified after they develop medical conditions;

• Must submit to an annual audit conducted by an independent certified public accountant (CPA).

Based on these requirements, there are only four HCSMs that have been granted exempt status: Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, Medi-Share and Liberty HealthShare.

5. HCSMs Have Strict Rules for Membership Eligibility

Just because you want an alternative to ACA coverage does not make you eligible for membership in an HCSA. HCSA have strict rules and standards that must be met. These include:

• No tobacco or illegal drug use;

• Limited alcohol use;

• No sex outside of marriage;

• No contraception use;

• Regular church attendance.

Generally, HCSMs limit their memberships to people who share their Biblical faith. The success of the HCSM model is predicated on members sharing the core value of taking care of one another as Christians.

6. Preventative Care Costs and Small Expenses Are Not Covered

HCSMs believe their members should be doing everything possible to live healthy lifestyles, so they do not cover preventative care. This includes exams and tests such as colonoscopies. They also do not cover small expenses that fall within a member’s annual unshared amount, which is similar to a deductible. Generally, HCSMs only cover large medical expenses.

7. HCSMs Do Not Have to Cover Pre-Existing Conditions

HCSMs may distinguish between pre-existing conditions in active treatment and maintenance treatment. If you become a member with a pre-existing condition that is being actively treated, any bills related to that treatment are not shared. However, once your treatment becomes maintenance or routine, your medical bills are eligible based on a graduated schedule of treatment. For instance, a bill presented during the first year of maintenance treatment may be eligible for sharing of up to $15,000. That amount increases for three years, and after the third year, the condition is no longer considered pre-existing.

Bills presented for maternity care cannot be shared unless members have due dates at least 300 days after joining the HCSM. Each HCSM offers varying levels of maternity coverage based on the amount the member is willing to contribute in monthly deposits.

Read more: 7 Facts You Should Know About Healthcare Sharing Ministries | Investopedia https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/021116/7-facts-you-should-know-about-healthcare-sharing-ministries.asp#ixzz5H0aERETs
Follow us: Investopedia on Facebook

What Pastors Need to Know About Mental Health, Ministry, and Liability

What Pastors Need to Know About Mental Health, Ministry, and Liability

Written by Samuel Ogles

May 30th, 2017

Mental health is not often a public topic of conversation—or even a private one. That avoidance appears to be just as prevalent, if not more so, in church settings. In recent years, however, a plethora of research has shown that mental health issues are more common than one might think, cutting across gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, it’s estimated that almost one in five Americans suffer from some form of mental illness each year.

As churches become increasingly aware of the widespread and serious nature of mental illness, church leaders may wonder how they should engage mental health ministry in the church—and what legal risks they may face in doing so.

The most important mental health case to date

Lisa Runquist, an attorney specializing in nonprofit law, has researched the issue of liability for churches that have chosen to counsel individuals with mental health issues.

For Runquist, the most important court case regarding churches and counseling came in 1988 when a lawsuit—Nally v. Grace Community Church of the Valley—was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court of California. An individual, Kenneth Nally, had sought help from counseling through Grace Community Church of the Valley and later committed suicide. Nally’s parents then brought a wrongful death action lawsuit against the church and four church pastors, alleging “clergyman malpractice” (negligence in failing to prevent the suicide).


More People Turn to Faith-Based Groups for Health Coverage

More People Turn to Faith Based Groups for Coverage

Written by Stephanie Armour

January 4th, 2018

A growing number of people are turning to health-care ministries to cover their medical expenses instead of buying traditional insurance, a trend that could challenge the stability of the Affordable Care Act.

The ministries, which operate outside the insurance system and aren’t regulated by states, provide a health-care cost-sharing arrangement among people with similarly held beliefs. Their membership growth has been spurred by an Affordable Care Act provision allowing participants in eligible ministries to avoid fines for not buying insurance.

Ministry officials estimate they have about 500,000 members nationwide, more than double the roughly 200,000 members before the law was enacted in 2010.

The membership growth was largely unanticipated by ministry officials when the groups obtained an exception to the law. Only ministries in continuous operation since at least Dec. 31, 1999 are exempt from the ACA. The carve-out was intended to satisfy what at the time were relatively small religious groups that argued that their nonparticipation was a matter of religious freedom.

But now, some insurance commissioners are concerned that the ministries could put consumers at risk if bills aren’t paid. The ministries aren’t overseen by state commissioners, which generally guard against unfair practices and ensure solvency.

Ministry officials say they aren’t offering insurance, don’t guarantee claims will be paid, and don’t need to be regulated. The nonprofits are well managed, according to ministry officials, with third-party audits and a sterling history of sharing members’ claims.

Ministries generally don’t allow members to sue and require disagreements to be settled by arbitration and mediation.

Some ministries say they cost about 30% less than private insurance. Monthly payments, or sharing, may range from about $75 for a single person under age 30 to $500 or so for a family.

State regulators also say health ministries disrupt the insurance market because they tend to attract healthier consumers, siphoning them from commercial plans that can be left with sicker or older customers. Most ministries don’t always share bills for certain pre-existing conditions, whereas the ACA requires insurers to cover anyone regardless of their past or current medical history.

“They [ministries] have the potential to destabilize the market by drawing off the good risk,” said Mike Kreidler, Washington’s state insurance commissioner.

Many of the estimated 50 health-care ministries in the U.S. are small operations of Amish or Mennonite communities, and some churches have their own programs limited to parishioners. There are several large Christian ministries, and at least two other ministries open to people regardless of specific religious faith. For the most part, the largest are operated by not-for-profit ministries.

Members typically must abide by Biblical principles such as not having sex outside of marriage, and may have to sign a statement of religious faith.

Kristine Willington, of Beverly Mass., and her family joined Liberty HealthShare last year. Photo: Shiho Fukada for The Wall Street Journal

Consumers generally pay a set monthly amount that goes into a general account or directly to others who have an eligible medical bill. They can also submit their own eligible bills to be shared by other members. In some ministries, members make contributions directly to others—and tuck gifts, personal cards and get-well wishes into the envelopes. Preventive care in some cases isn’t covered.

Some consumers say they joined ministries to avoid rising deductibles and premiums on the health law’s exchanges, and to be free from the law’s penalty, which starts at $695 next year.

Kristine Willington, 37 years old, of Beverly, Mass., found out that her family’s insurance was almost doubling in 2014 to $2,100 a month with a $5,000 deductible.

Last year, the family of six joined Liberty HealthShare and paid $475 a month, she said, with a $1,500 annual out-of-pocket cost. Her son’s $30,000 hospital bill was taken care of by members, alleviating her concerns about consumer risk.

“It’s a risk we’re willing to take,” she said. “Two of our children are in private school and we couldn’t afford that otherwise.”

Insurance commissioners in some states including Kentucky, Oklahoma and Washington moved to shut down the ministries’ state operations in past years. Their efforts were blocked by state legislatures, which backed the right of ministries to operate without interference. The ministries have gotten support from conservative lawmakers.

Past problems have led to concerns. Former officials of an Ohio ministry were ordered by a jury in 2004 to pay more than $14 million for embezzling member funds. Money for medical bills was instead spent on real estate, vehicles, and the living expenses of an exotic dancer, according to the civil lawsuit brought by the ministry and the Ohio Attorney General.

The group, now called Christian Healthcare Ministries, incorporated a list of financial safeguards since the lawsuit and now protects members with a stringent conflict-of-interest policy for board members and an annual certified audit.

“Our purpose is ministry, not profit,” said the Rev. Howard Russell, chief executive of Christian Healthcare Ministries, who also filed the lawsuit against the former officials.

Rev. Russell said the organization is vastly different than it was then and that when the problems were identified, he brought the matter to the Ohio attorney’s general office and requested their assistance. He said it was important to demonstrate the ministry’s stand against such behavior, and that their internal controls worked.

Separate lawsuits were filed in Montana, Illinois and Oklahoma by ministry members against another cost-sharing ministry, claiming particular medical bills that should have been shared were not. The cases were ultimately settled or resolved through arbitration. The ministry didn’t admit to any wrongdoing in the cases.

Even the ministries are surprised by their recent growth. A self-employed painter launched Samaritan Ministries International from a remodeled chicken coop in his backyard, and members began joining in 1994.

Leaders thought sign-ups would be slow because of subsidized insurance on the exchanges. Instead, the Peoria, Ill.-based organization has moved into three-story headquarters and recently threw a luncheon celebrating 50,000 members.

“None of us imagined it would be this big,” said James Lansberry, executive vice president of Samaritan Ministries International, a health-care sharing group. “The difficulties with narrow networks, high deductibles and premiums on the exchanges were much higher than even we expected. Our growth rate has been higher than ever before.”


Falls are, unfortunately, a common occurrence.

Falls are a serious health issue among seniors. While falls in the general population usually come about due to dangerous work or leisure activities, seniors are at greater risk of falling in their day-to-day activities. Medications, vision impairments, and general weakness can combine with environmental factors to put seniors in danger of seriously injuring themselves in any fall.


11: Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall

65: According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans over the age of 65 falls each year.

7,000,000: In 2014, older Americans experienced 29 million falls, resulting in 7 million injuries.

19: Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall

For more information on this health issue, click here.

Training/Certification for church leaders on care for problem gamblers

For some years, the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling has recognized a need to offer more training and even certification services to church leaders, both clergy and lay. Two of the leaders in this effort are Mr. Curtis Barrett, PhD and the Rev. Janet Jacobs.

An introduction to this effort is available at an event coming up soon on January 29-30, 2015, at the Clarion Hotel in Lexington.

The brochure about that event can be downloaded here. The brochure about the certification is available here.


World AIDS Day 2014

The churches have a constructive role to play in encouraging people to seek health, including through getting HIV AIDS testing and counseling. We can also do a great deal to de-stigmatize diseases so that people live the fullest lives possible. KCC Board member the Rev. Keith Haithcock appears frequently in a new hour-long movie about HIV/AIDS, available at this link: http://bit.ly/KCCAIDSDay2014

Child Abuse Prevention Month in April

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month-

[This article was prepared and shared by Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky]

April, Child Abuse Prevention Month, is devoted to celebrating everything we can do to transform our community into a place that cares about – and actively supports - families and children. The goal of this month is to raise awareness of the issue of child abuse and neglect as well as celebrate families. 

The community of faith has a role to be sanctuaries of safety and protection for all.  Scripture teaches the church of our responsibility to God in caring for the vulnerable (Matthew 18:5 & 6, Luke 18: 16 & 17, James 1:27).  Children and their caregivers especially need support and advocacy to know they are safe, protected, loved and cared for.  Below are specific ways the church and individuals can support families and help prevent child abuse.  Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, the only statewide child abuse prevention organization, can be contacted at 859-225-8879 or www.pcaky.org for additional information.

The Church can be a powerful tool when you “Commit to Prevent.”  Effective strategies for churches to support families and help prevent child abuse include:

Host an awareness event, resource fair, or set aside a Sunday to pray for victims of child abuse and those who rescue them.  http://www.bluesunday.org/

Establish policies

      Resources for establishing policies and procedures:






Train leaders, volunteers and parents to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect

Start a support group to facilitate community and friendship among parents. 

Provide mentoring programs for new parents, young adults and teenagers. 

Respond to family crises. Offer extra support to families when they need it, as in times of illness, job loss, housing problems and other stressors.  Link families to community services and opportunities.

Develop ways for parents to gain information on parenting issues. Host parenting classes, provide parenting books and resources, as well as distribute parenting tip sheets.  Place child abuse prevention materials and parenting resources in high traffic areas of your facilities.

Organize a “Baby Supplies” drive/shower

Partner with local foster care programs


YOU can be a powerful tool when you “Commit to Prevent.”  Effective strategies to support families and help prevent child abuse include:

Educate your friends, family, organization and community on how to report child abuse and neglect when they suspect a child is in danger.

Encourage parents and caregivers.  Tell them they are doing a good job!  Point out the positive! 

Offer to assist with transportation to and from activities.

Know a parent with a new baby?  Offer a parent a break. Take the baby for a walk, offer to watch the children to let mom or dad take a shower or go to the grocery or have a few minutes to herself or himself.  Offer to bring over a meal.

Offer to be a time-out resource. Let a parent know that it is ok to feel frustrated and when they do, they can call you to come and hold the baby while they take a time out.

Encourage parents to remove themselves from situations that become volatile and to take a time out before confronting difficult situations. Let them know it is ok to feel frustrated and it is ok to ask for help.

Be a respite.  Do you know a family who could simply use some extra support in the midst of high stress situations?  Offer relief to babysit or care for children an afternoon, evening, or a few days.

Donate your time and resources to enhance child abuse prevention programs
that help give every child the opportunity to not only imagine a world without abuse, but make it reality.

Tell parents about 1-800-CHILDREN (resource and referral helpline) and other local community resources (parenting classes, mothers of preschoolers programs, parent’s night out).

Conduct a used ink cartridges or used cell phones drive and give them to Prevent Child Abuse KY towards fundraising for prevention programs.

Host a party for prevention.  Host a fun gathering to raise money for prevention efforts.

Stay informed about how to locate local resources and referral services available to families, and share those resources with others!

Resources are made available through Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky’s online information center at www.pcaky.org, or you may call 859-225-8879 to learn more about how you can “Commit to Prevent.”

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you must make a report to 1-877-KYSAFE1 (1-877-597-2331).

Three Health Ministries Acclaimed as Good Examples

“Parish nurse programs don’t get honored often,” said Carol Bradford upon receiving her award at the Kentucky Council of Churches banquet. In fact, neither do health ministries generally. And yet, health and wholeness are central to the work of churches walking in the way of Jesus Christ, the “Great Physician.”

Elise JohnstoneFor this reason, the Council explored health ministry themes at the Council’s 2012 annual assembly in Morehead, and honored health ministry models at the 2013 assembly at Kentucky Dam Village State Park. The three ministries were chosen for their excellence in service, the distinctive models of work they represent, and their geographic diversity. As Mistress of Ceremonies at the awards banquet, the Rev. Elise Johnstone of Georgetown described each awardee’s work and presented certificates.

Carol BradfordParish Nurses and Hospital Outreach:
Nurse and teacher Carol Bradford’s work represents a model in which hospitals do health and wellness outreach in partnership with nurses who in turn are based in congregations and parishes. Two hospitals in Paducah, Lourdes and Baptist Health, cooperate in this work that extends as far as West Tennessee and Southern Illinois. The parish-based nurses work as part of the ministry team alongside pastors and volunteers.

Mark HowellFree Clinics:
The Rev. Mark Howell was honored for his work and the work of Mission Frankfort Clinic. Housed in First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Mission Frankfort’s clinics now include dental, medical and pharmacy services. Most patients struggle with chronic disease and have no other access to care.  Rev. Howell told the heart-wrenching story of just one such patient, a man who was in great pain but had never been diagnosed or treated until he came to the Clinic.

Rich SeckelAdvocacy:
Mr. Rich Seckel’s work as Director of the Kentucky Equal Justice Center (KEJC) has involved him deeply in public policy work and legal work, with a strong focus in the area of health. As a leader in the field of advocacy for improvements for health of Kentuckians, Rich Seckel was one of a small group of persons who brought the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky into being. He also was instrumental in creating and guiding Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of health advocacy organizations and individuals.

Churches wanting to know more about how to be involved in health ministries in these ways may contact these awardees directly or through the Council. 

Council's voice on recent public issues

The voice of the Council is exercised through email alerts to subscribers, presentations at events, news media interviews and other means. You may receive the legislative alerts by signing up at http://capwiz.com/kychurches/mlm/verify/

In addition, we sometimes write to public officials to state our view on a specific matter before them. Between late 2012 and mid-2013 there have been occasions for writing -- or at times "signing on to" -- such letters. 

We wrote Governor Beshear to ask that he refrain from signing any death warrants. This is because the Council opposes the use of the death penalty. This letter can be read at this link.

Kentucky's Medicaid commissioner received a KCC letter urging that the Commonwealth claim the federal funds set aside for us to use in expanding eligibility for Medicaid to include persons earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. This letter can be read at this link

Concerned about policies that needlessly force persons in need into waiting periods for health insurance coverage we signed on with colleague organizations to a letter to Governor Beshear asking for an end to those waiting periods. This letter can be read at this link.

In line with a large number of faith leaders addressing gun violence in other states, Kentucky faith leaders including the KCC wrote a letter calling for common sense safeguards that would reduce gun violence. This letter appears at this link.

In the case of another specific health policy issue we also let our view be known in the linked sign-on letter that we support continued government funding for subsidies to relatives who take in a child when the child's parents cannot care for him or her. This is called "kinship care" and it costs less and is often more effective than removing a child from relatives.

Please contact the Council if you have questions. Your participation in advocating for improved priorities for life in Kentucky is most welcome.



Mission trips -- the ecumenical difference

Unity at the Heart of a Medical Mission Trip to Honduras

By Catelynn Kenner

Toncontín airport in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa is known for its excessively steep and dangerous approach, and short, sometimes deadly, runway. The country itself is regarded as the murder capital of the world. The government reeks of corruption, power lust, bloody revenge, and uselessness. And yet this odd corner of the world, in the neighborhood of Fuerzas Unidas (United Strengths), is where my heart lies, awaiting my return year after year.

I first had the opportunity to travel to this Central American country, roughly the size of Kentucky, in February 2008. I was a naive 18 year old who had never left the U.S., much less encountered poverty at the unsightly level that it exists for most of Honduras. That trip changed my life as has each subsequent trip.

Though I am consistently blown away by the literally miraculous work I see each year, this year’s trip took on an even deeper meaning for me. Never have I fully appreciated the health mission team for what it is, how it is, or why it is, nor for each member as a professional and individual until now. I offer my reflections as solely a glimpse of the glory of God shining so blindingly and brilliantly through the work of this ecumenical, medical mission trip.

The team

The team was beautifully orchestrated by core leaders from Frankfort First United Methodist Church,  Good Shepherd Catholic Church (Frankfort), and St. John Chrysostom Catholic Church (Eminence) with team members from Central Kentucky representing Quest Community Church (Lexington), Graefenburg Baptist Church, Forks of Elkhorn Baptist Church (Frankfort), First Christian Church (Frankfort), Embrace United Methodist Church (Lexington), Southland Christian Church (Lexington), in partnership with Resurrection UMC (Louisville) and Eastwood UMC (Louisville), and with prayers coming from both around our nation and Honduras.

The team offered medical (general, pediatric, obstetrical and gynecological), dental (cleanings, restorative, extractions), and pharmaceutical care as well as health education and technical support (electrical, plumbing, woodworking) for the church-temporarily-turned-clinic. On this particular trip, plans for a church-run, micro-business bakery currently in construction was added to our agenda. This year’s patient flow ultimately clocked in just short of 1,300 patients after 3 full days (about 8 hours each) and 2 half-days (about 5 hours each) not including Fluoride treatments given to hundreds of students at a nearby Elementary school.

The need

Families and individuals began gathering at the gate of the church for clinical attention during the twilight hours of the morning and many had to be turned away for a lack of time each afternoon. The faithful showed up early the next day ready to receive care. I met a young mother who had been making the trip to the clinic with her child since 4:00 a.m., a dangerous time for anyone to roam the streets - especially as a woman, and with a small boy. She was not even close to the front of the line when we began admitting patients. A 72 year-old woman told one of the dentists she had walked for 3 hours down a  steep mountain pass to get to the clinic that morning- to have her teeth pulled. These stories are not unique.

Once in the gate, patients registered for medical and/or dental services and paid a minimal fee, equivalent to a US nickel, to be seen. From there they moved to Triage where vitals were taken- blood pressure, pulse, height and weight, and into Intake where medical histories were obtained and patients were directed to the appropriate provider. After being seen, patients attended a health education station to learn about proper dental health, nutrition, and clean drinking water. As an added treat this year, Eastwood UMC and Resurrection UMC provided funds for Bibles to be given to each family represented at the clinic. After receiving the gift patients headed to our make-shift, yet well-stocked pharmacy. There, prescriptions were filled for free and patients received clear instructions on how and when to take each medicine.  


Daily, the team met Hondurans with many tears of joy, of hope, of gratitude. And the feelings were mutual. It was blatantly obvious that the work done- by both qualitative and quantitative measures- was benefitting the community. We have begun to see systematic change in the surrounding neighborhoods after 10 years of consistent trips to the clinic and yearly, renewed relationship-building. Just as in the US, one visits her or his healthcare provider around once a year and gets to know the provider more deeply each trip. The patient base built in Fuerzas Unidas is no exception. Some patients have been seen annually by the same providers for each of the years the team has come to “The Hill,” as it is lovingly referred to. Increasing, health literacy is one of several sustainable changes being reaped from the work of the team, a legacy that extends throughout the year when patients seek the minimal (unaffordable and inaccessible) healthcare available to them during the team’s absences. We see young women become mothers, babies grow in stature, weight and ability, patients heal after injuries and procedures -- the list goes on.

With a young child lying in a dental chair (read: a beach chair covered in thin plastic atop four cement blocks), a dental care provider was astonished to see no signs of decay in the patient’s mouth. After routinely needing to pull five or six teeth a time, even in children, this came as such a shock that the provider asked the mother how it was that her child appeared to be taking such great care of his teeth. The mother replied that seven years ago she came to the clinic for the first time and learned how sugar can rot children’s teeth. Standing in bold contrast to the cultural norm she outlawed sugary treats in the house and taught her child to care for his teeth. Consistent, loving, educational care on behalf of the team has explicitly led to inclines in patient health and health literacy.  Mary Ann Burch, Hygienist, is from Good Shepherd in Frankfort


As I observed more and more of these miracles I began to wonder what it is that makes this team tick, what is it the yields such a positive, productive, fun, life-changing experience for both patients and clinic workers alike. I have come to believe, whole-heartedly, that it is the fundamentally ecumenical nature of the team that brings about this unique experience.

Most glaringly, at the base of all interactions among workers and between workers and patients is the base of mutual love from which the relationships are built. When we choose not to operate under the banner of one “brand” of Christianity we open ourselves up to focusing on the major tenets of our faith. We all agree on love. We all agree on compassion. We all agree on justice. We agree on being the best neighbors, the best sisters and brothers we can be to those around us. All the details in the fabric balance each other out when we join hands in the name of Christ’s love.

Ministry is easier from both the perspective of team members and those being ministered to when we cast away divisive squabbles over theological fine print. We have the opportunity to learn from the perspectives of team members of other denominations as we encounter one another’s personal faiths intimately in action. And through the eyes of those we minister to, we are not viewed as lofty missionaries with an agenda for the XYZ Church. We are simply lovers of Christ who feel the deep need to pass along the compassion we feel for our sisters and brothers around the world. We are not confined to one label - only the banner of Christ’s deep love. In a conversation with Arnie LeMay, our clinic engineer from Eminence Catholic Church, he told me that “Compassion is not stooping over (to reach someone), but walking alongside them.” When we are more accessible and less intimidating to those coming into the clinic (especially of other faith walks), we can more effectively minister more personally while caring for their physical needs as well.

Secondly, when denominational labels are used for mission trips we tend to cut off support, resources, gifts, and talents of our neighbors in other churches. In the phenomenal book Half the Sky the authors, Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof, tell the story of Bill Gates giving a speech in Saudi Arabia. A curtain barrier separated the audience- 4/5 men and 1/5 women. At the end of his lecture there was an open forum and an audience member asks if it is realistic for Saudi Arabia to become a Top Ten country in technology by 2010. Mr. Gates responds candidly and boldly. “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get close to the Top Ten.”

Similarly, if we begin to work together for the common good we begin to fully mobilize the best of the best. Without limits based on denominations the team was able to utilize the expertise of a Methodist OB/GYN and internist, a Catholic dental hygienist, pharmacy technician, Physical Therapist, clinic manager and engineer, a Baptist Nurse Practitioner, and non-denominational dentists, health educator, pharmacist, etc. Each piece of the puzzle, each member of the body of Christ, serving in a critical role - we simply could not function well without even just one of them.

At the most basic level, if we did not function ecumenically, the team would not have reached the community to the extent - in geographical breadth and personal depth alike - that it has today, nor the way it continues to even as I write and preparations are already in motion for 2014. Originally, the team started as 11 members of United Methodist churches of Frankfort and Somerset in 2003. After two years the contagious nature of the work spread to the Catholic church in Frankfort and soon began branching out across denominations and the country as friends and family members began to get involved upon hearing of the life-changing experiences of team members. The community continues to grow today.

Today, when one could name a good number of hair-splitting, hot button issues that could be contorted into reasons not to work in unity with one another, to not reach out in one accord-we offer our hands to the world of mission work. As the Kentucky Council of Churches’ Constitutional Preamble states:

Our unity is both a gift and a challenge, calling us to interdependence as intimate as the members of a single body (I Corinthians 12), the branches of a single vine (John 15), the stones of a single house (I Peter 2)—a unity that preserves the dignity of our diversity and which gives us a common ministry for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation under the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

To God be the glory- for what has been done for Hondurans and United States citizens over the decade of work in Tegucigalpa- in physical and spiritual healings, for what He has planned for the next year, and for all the years thereafter. Amen and Amen.


Ms. Catelynn Kenner is serving as the 2013 Health Intern for the Kentucky Council of Churches and as the Wellness and Community Director for Beuchel United Methodist Church in Louisville. A graduate of Transylvania University, she begins the Master of Public Health program at Emory in August. She wishes to acknowledge the assistance she received with this article from Jeremiah and Cindy Littleton, Jim Buriss and Arba Kenner (all of Frankfort First United Methodist), Arnie LeMay (of St. John Chrysostom Catholic Church in Eminence).

Medicaid eligibility changes could "move the health needle" in Kentucky

The Commonwealth has a special opportunity to avail itself of federal funds set aside for the states under the Affordable Care Act. These funds become available if the state opts to raise the eligibility level to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Taking advantage of this helps Kentucky in a variety of ways that more than compensate for the eventual (delayed) additional costs to the state's budget. We have written to the state's Medicaid commissioner urging that the Commonwealth seize this opportunity. The letter is available here.

Inspiring churches for health advocacy

In less than six minutes, a new video captures the essence of the unscripted testimonials offered by participants at the recent KCC annual assembly. Participants were given the opportunity to be filmed speaking from the heart about the connections of faith and health and advocacy. You can access the video on YouTube at this link.

The Council is offering to come to gatherings of churches to continue the conversation. What have we learned together in the past five years of advocating more attention to health -- the health of clergy, the role of churches in health of communities, and the public policies of the state of Kentucky? What should we do together next? Please contact us if you are interested in hosting such a presentation and conversation! 

Christian outreach in the health area begins with compassion. Like the friends who lowered a man through the roof to reach Jesus for healing, we want to "go the distance" for people we care about. At times this can mean working hard to change policies, whether those are policies of health boards, clinics and hospitals, insurance companies, or government programs. Here are some of the ways the churches do this together through the Kentucky Council of Churches:

Work with partners: Many organizations come together in Kentucky Voices for Health (KVH). See the link under Health Ministries Resources Partners along with other helpful links in the upper right of this page. Because of coalition work, we can find you an expert on policies affecting many aspects of health.

Work on access: Everyone should have access to health care. But access is affected by costs, schedules, availability of insurance, and availability of care providers.

At the grassroots level, we try to encourage every congregation to get involved with health ministries and we can network you with successful models of what that can look like!

At the state-wide level, we are working to remove the waiting period for Kentucky-provided children's health insurance "KCHIP", and the waiting period for Medicaid coverage for legally residing immigrants. We are asking the governor and state legislators to give serious positive consideration to opting in to expansion of eligibility for Medicaid offered under the Affordable Care Act. 

Work on habits: We can all take more responsibility for how our behavior affect ourselves and others. Among the ways we address this basic idea, two stand out:

A smoke-free environment would go a very long way to improving the health of Kentuckians. People smoke less when cigarettes cost more and when smoking is not allowed in workplaces, and so we have advocated tax increases and smoke-free policies.

Healthier clergy can set good examples and lead the way to healthier practices in churches. And so we created a clergy peer learning group program focused on "health and hospitality".

For regular emailed information, please sign up at this link.
For specific questions please contact us at kcc@kycouncilofchurches.org
God bless you!



How to get up if you fall -- Body Recall instructions

Body Recall, based in Berea, teaches exercises and methods that help prevent falling and help people get up and get help if we do fall. Many churches are giving pastoral care to members who have experienced a fall. Sometimes this avoidable situation results in an inability to return to church.

This link is to a two minute video, courtesy of the Times Daily of Florence, Alabama, from a demonstration giving by 5 residents of the Green Oaks Inn specialty care facility in Florence. The demonstration was part of a Falls and Recovery presentation given by Body Recall Executive Director Jeff Rubin and Certified Instructor and Trainer Anita Patirck before 400 administrators at the Alabama Assisted Living Association. Ranging in age from 82 to 88, these residents and students show what is possible through appropriate training when facing quality of life challenges of various sorts.

Body Recall will be one of the vendors exhibiting at the Council's 2012 annual assembly October 25-26 in Morehead. 

What is a faithful vision for health care?

The health care policy debates in the US have challenged us all to think about individual and collective responsibilities in the area of health. In those debates it is important to remember toward what vision of the future we want to work. In business circles and project management, we're told someone at the top must lay out "what good looks like." Scriptures tell us what "good" looks like if we will only love our neighbor as ourself; if we forget that, then we are "like sheep without a shepherd."

Vision for health care has historically come from faith communities. Hospitals derive from the history of hospitality and healing exercised in the name of God, especially in the monastic tradition of Christianity.

The Kentucky Council of Churches articulated a vision 21 years ago. Please consider reading it together in your churches or using it to develop sermons and Sunday school classes, perhaps in relation to US Supreme Court decisions. The specific challenges and calls to action listed in relation to that vision read, sadly, as if they were written yesterday. Will they read the same 21 years from now, or will we move to a new and better place as a society? 

Join the Kentucky Council of Churches at our assembly in Morehead, Kentucky, October 24-25 of 2012, as we revisit the health theme and explore together what the churches' vision is for the coming years. 


Preventing falls

How many persons on your church's prayer list got there because they fell? Too often, a simple fall can lead to a downward spiral of health or to a way of life that is circumscribed, including limited participation in church life. Falls can be prevented. We can all learn how to get up or get help if we do fall.

For more information, here are some helpful web sites:

CDC: Fall Risks for Older Adults  http://www.cdc.gov/features/fallrisks/

National Council on Aging  http://www.ncoa.org/improve-health/falls-prevention/

The American Physical Therapy Association  http://www.apta.org/BalanceFalls/

New Cabinet Secretary meets with "Voices"

The new head of Kentucky's Health and Family Services cabinet, Ms. Audrey Haynes, met with 30 representatives of the 250 entities who belong to the consumer advocates' coalition, Kentucky Voices for Health. Only two weeks into the job, Ms. Haynes demonstrated a mastery of many important details and situations. Her own history as a trained social worker with ample policy and political experience also equips her to serve. The participants were sobered about the challenges ahead as we talked about the magnitude of substance abuse issues in Kentucky.

Pictured in the photograph from foreground leftward to the room's back are: Rich Seckel of the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, Jodi Mitchell of Kentucky Voices for Health, Secretary Haynes, Sheila Schuster of the Advocacy Action Network, and David Allgood of the Center for Accessible Living.

Smoke Free Kentucky

It is a basic principle of care for one's "neighbor" in the biblical sense, that we should exercise prudence in not exposing each other to harmful chemicals. There is an effort, supported by the Kentucky Council of Churches, to legislate about smoke exposure state-wide. Please read some scientific reasons in the article link here. The 2012 legislation proposed, HB 289, would extend throughout Kentucky the benefits of public policies already in force and covering some 34% of all Kentuckians at the community level.