Fortress Press

Healing Bodies and Souls: A Practical Guide for Congregations

Healing Bodies and Souls

A Practical Guide for Congregations

W. Daniel Hale (Author), Harold G. Koenig (Author)


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As healthcare leaders widely recognize, churches are second homes to their members and ideally situated—indeed called—to serve their communities with the loving and personal care that a stressed healthcare system cannot deliver. Daniel Hale and Harold Koenig, national leaders in health ministries, offer a practical and engaging primer on developing a variety of initiatives for all who are concerned and interested—pastors, parish nurses, lay leaders, and concerned parishioners. Their short volume mixes real-life congregational case studies with vital information to equip congregants in helping people manage illness, navigate the healthcare labyrinth, avoid or manage disability, and even provide some life-saving and preventative medical services. While their case studies report on the many kinds of engagement congregations have taken on, each chapter also provides basic information on the most common healthcare challenges—diabetes, skin cancer, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, breast cancer, prostate cancer, glaucoma, and depression—and what can be done in local congregations.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800636296
  • eBook ISBN 9781451409420
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 144
  • Publication Date October 31, 2003


"In a time when health care is in shambles, Hale and Koenig argue convincingly that religious communities can become involved in solving the problems. Their argument is buttressed by examples of effective health ministry programs that range from church-based training for lay health educators, to free clinics, to screening programs, to heart disease prevention. Each chapter is coupled with information about the medical conditions being addressed by these church programs. A must-read for all people who wish to put their faith into action to meet real health needs."
— Abigail Rian Evans
Charlotte W. Newcombe Professor of Practical Theology
Princeton Theological Seminary

"Too often the church sits on the sidelines as some of the greatest needs of our society go unattended — care for the body, mind, and soul. But Hale and Koenig remind us of 'what Jesus would do' by showing us what others are already doing. These inspiring stories and practical applications effectively call us to become healing communities of faith."
— Gene Rudd, M.D.
Associate Executive Director, Christian Medical & Dental Associations

"This book is a godsend. Daniel Hale and Harold Koenig, noted national leaders in health care, have given organized religion a book that reports moving stories of human illness and need and then describes how visionary leaders and congregations of caring people create new models of health ministry. Each chapter and model deals with a common serious illness by telling a detailed story followed by Dr. Koenig's medical analysis and recommendations for treatment and congregational ministries. We now have a book that will guide the church into its needed leadership in the national health crusade.
"I pray this book will get into all the right hands and hearts!"
— G. Lloyd Rediger, ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Consultant to denominations and seminaries on issues of clergy health, self-care, and sexual malfeasance

"So that's what hope looks like! While many have measured the looming crisis of aging communities, nobody has so clearly mapped the pathway toward hopeful, caring congregations. Sparkling, smart, and practical, Healing Bodies and Souls is filled with integrity and compassion. Hale and Koenig say, 'quit the gloom and get to work.'
"This book not only describes but models the rich interplay between medical intelligence and whole-life human development. Although rooted in their deep competence in gerontology, they sketch a way toward congregations that are vital and life-giving for the whole lifespan. Congregations that follow Hale and Koenig's lead are going to find their future in these life-giving ministries."
— Gary Gunderson
Director, Interfaith Health Program
Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

"Hale has given us captivating stories of congregational care followed by practical comments from Koenig. The combination offers a distinctive, contextualized vision for the formation and practice of caring in faith communities. The stories will capture your imagination and challenge you to exploration of possibilities for healing and caring ministries."
— Keith Meador
Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Medicine
Director, Theology and Medicine Program, Duke Divinity School

"These are simple stories with profound potential for the church and for health care. The future of health care is in the hands of the community and its residents. At this time, individuals are searching for ways to put their faith into action. So much of health and healing is about education and self-care and those needs are not being met by the current system of health care. Meeting those needs is the work of the church and the members of the body of Christ — a way to put faith in to action. This book tells stories that inspire and gives the basic guidelines for action."
— Gwen W. Halaas, M.D.,
Director, Ministerial Health and Wellness, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

"Healing Bodies and Souls skillfully weaves together the stories of pastors and church members to produce a guide for church communities interested in embracing the full Christian ministry of service to both body and soul. The stories of individuals responding to the power of the Holy Spirit will move church and community leaders, health care providers, church members, and parish nurses to explore the development of a full health ministry within their faith communities. This book is an easy, must-read for anyone who is both concerned about the current health care crisis and gifted with the vision that the church is the answer."
— Verna Benner Carson, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse/Psychiatric Mental Health
National Director of RESTORE Behavioral Home Health for Tender Loving Care — Staff Builders Home Care Services

"Every day we hear of some new challenge or threat to the health care industry, and, therefore, to patients. Dollars shrink. Staff members are spread to wider reaches without reinforcements. Technology is developed daily and becomes the 'expected service' even though people do not grasp what things cost. The clarion call from the industry, from health care professionals, and, most especially, from patients, is to redefine health care and to embrace a genuinely holistic approach to care. The future of health care rests especially on our religious communities. The church has long stood firm in its actions for the good of health care. This very practical book offers stories, data, examples, the basics of health consciousness, and the commitment to wellness that can and must be made in every congregation. It isn't about money. It is about what God is asking us to be and to do — and the commitment to that spiritual challenge — as we work cooperatively with the health care institutions in our communities."
— The Rev. Dr. Richard B. Gilbert
Executive Director, the World Pastoral Care Center
Member of the Board of Directors, Health Ministries Association

"Healing Bodies and Souls brings awareness to the often overlooked and unnoticed inner workings among the academic, medical, and religious environments in which we live. Dan Hale and Harold Koenig offer concrete ways that these fields can work together to offer quality care for our bodies and souls."
— Paul H. Summer
Pastor, All Saints Lutheran Church, Port Orange, Florida
Chair of the Board of Trustees, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina

"Christianity teaches proper stewardship of the gift of our bodies. In a time when health care professionals frankly acknowledge the difficulty of encouraging healthy behaviors and treatment compliance in patients, the emergence of the churches as purposeful partners in the pursuit of health is vital. While Christianity accepts the ultimate frailty and mortality of human life ... the precious gift of healthy life is among the most important of Christian values. W. Daniel Hale and Harold G. Koenig are uniquely qualified in highlighting all the practical ways in which church communities can enhance the health of those in their midst, and, by example, of all those who share in our common humanity."
— Stephen G. Post
Professor of Bioethics and Religion
School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University

Table of Contents


  1. An Instrument of Healing
  2. The Good Shepherd's Hope
  3. Finding a Life Line
  4. An Unmistakable Sign
  5. Sharing One Another's Burdens
  6. Hope and Strength Renewed
  7. Caring for Body, Mind, and Spirit
  8. Reaching the Multitudes
  9. Out of the Darkness and into the Light
  10. Answering the Call
Appendix: Resources for Ministries of Health and Healing