Often a pastor, elder, or church leader asks, “How can I get my congregation more interested in healthy living? Where do I start?” There are many things one can do to promote health and wholeness, but one of the most successful ways to raise the congregation’s level of interest is to spend a few minutes every Sabbath morning teaching health principles, a few drops at a time.
Why do that? After all, some say, the Sabbath service is for worshiping God, and there are more important things to do than talk about health principles during worship. But I can think of at least two reasons why it should be done.
First, the Bible says that when we care for our bodies, the “temple” where God can abide, we are also doing an act of worship (Rom. 12:1), and we should glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20). In fact, “our mental and spiritual vigor are dependent on our physical strength and activity.”1 By learning about healthful habits and putting those habits into practice, we are collaborating with God in strengthening our minds to better differentiate between right and wrong. In fact, inspiration says that “anything that lessens physical strength enfeebles the mind and makes it less capable of discriminating between right and wrong. We become less capable of choosing the good and have less strength of will to do that which we know to be right.”2
So why not spend at least 1-10 minutes during Sabbath School or worship sharing quick and simple evidence-based health information that may bring physical, mental, and spiritual benefits not only to members but also to visitors who might never have heard these health principles before? Since we are to preach the gospel and the three angels’ messages, doesn’t it make sense that we would make room for this right arm of the gospel to be used during Sabbath worship?
The second reason is that changes in health behavior happen in stages. To be effective in health ministry, we must present information that will help people move from one stage to the next. Some common stages, proposed by researchers Prochaska and DiClemente,3 are:
1. Pre-contemplation: People are not aware of their risks or are not interested in making health behavior changes or attending health programs.
2. Contemplation: People become more interested in learning about health and attending health programs as they become aware of their health risks and the need to make more healthful choices. In this stage, they plan and envision how to begin a new behavior.
3. Action: People make the decision and act on it as they finally begin to incorporate and adopt a new behavior.
4. Maintenance: If repeated regularly and for a long enough period of time, this action will turn into a new habit. In this phase, the new behavior becomes part of a person’s personal routine.
By setting aside a few minutes every Sabbath for a “health nugget,” “health minute,” or “health drops,” we can help motivate those who are in the pre-contemplative or contemplative stages to move to the next stage, thereby advancing in their journey to more healthful living. The Holy Spirit can use that time to impress and motivate people to decide to change and incorporate more healthful habits into their lives. By God’s grace, regular and consist “health minutes” can awaken a church that has been indifferent about health.
Content for these “health minutes” can be drawn from numerous sources; some are listed below:
1. Abundant Living Health Nugget Series from Health Education Resource, http://www.healthexpobanners.com/engl_ healthtalksabundantliving.php
2. Positive Choices, www.positivechoices.com
3. Facts With Hope, www.NADHealthMinistries.org
God gives us the choice for life or death and lovingly says, “Choose life so that you and your children might live” (Deut. 30:19). Isn’t it time to “choose life and tell the world” by incorporating “health minutes” in our worship services? As an elder and spiritual leader, you can make this a priority in your own life as well as in the ministry of your church.
1 Ellen G. White, Education, 195.
2 ———, Christ Object Lessons, 346.
3 Prochaska, J. O. and C. C. DiClemente (1983). “Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 51(3): 390-395.
Katia Reinert is director of the Health Ministries Department for the North American Division.