Historically our church has been very interested in health. It started as an emphasis in personal health practices and has grown into a ministry of helping others through the scores of health institutions, clinics and various health ministries we operate today.

Yet I believe the fulfillment of the statement that the health work is the right arm of the gospel is not dependent on the number of hospitals and clinics we operate, the number of cooking schools or stop smoking programs we offer, or even how often our evangelistic presentations are preceded by a health nugget (though there is value in each of these). To rise to the level of importance indicated, there must be something more.

Instead of more or better programs, we need to radically change the way we run them.

Most of our health programs today are mostly information—we teach health principles and hand out recipes.

However, most people already know what they should do to experience a healthier lifestyle; actually doing it on a regular basis is another matter. Many fail in that endeavor because they do not know how to change.  What they need is “wellness coaching”—a modern term that closely resembles how Jesus ministered. He listened to people’s needs and wants. He asked important questions, drawing on their background and experience. He gave them insight that brought hope and a new way to look at things.  This type of biblical coaching is a way to build supportive relationships so people are empowered to experience sustainable lifestyle change.

We must look for and design opportunities to move our interactions into the personal realm, the one-on-one, where people live and work.

This may change many of our programs into small home groups where we spend time talking (and, most of all, listening) to those who come with needs, goals and desires.  Wellness coaches learn to see people’s potential, help them establish their own goals, and continue to provide support for a set period of time after “the program” is over. As little as 20 minutes per week on the phone offering support can change a life, perhaps for eternity.

People today need the same revelation of God as was needed over 2,000 years ago. Back then God did not just give the world information, a presentation, a book.  He came in person. Character is seldom seen in a lecture, a video or a presentation.  Not until we begin to interact with people on the most personal level is character truly revealed.

“Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of the Savior shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim His own” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons p. 69).

This statement is so powerful because in it we see that He desires to reveal His character to the world through us.  Do we care enough to learn some coaching skills that reflect His character of listening, asking questions, sharing insights and providing ongoing, personal support?

I believe that one of the most transforming moves we could make to strengthen our ministries and hasten Christ’s coming is to learn the simple, personal coaching skills Jesus employed and then use these skills to connect with participants of our health programs, members of our church and our own family.

So please, no more health programs—unless you add coaching during and after. I challenge you to transform your health programs by adding the ongoing personal touch, learning Christ’s coaching skills and finding the joy of His fellowship in this ministry.

Wellness coaching training videos and materials are available on rmcsda.org, under Departments, Health Ministry (shorten to direct link)

Rick Mautz is director of Health Ministries for the Rocky Mountain Conference. Wellness coaching training videos and materials are available at http://rmcsda.org/health.