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Department: Nursing in the Church

Nursing in the Church

Hinton, Sharon T.

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Journal of Christian Nursing: April/June 2020 - Volume 37 - Issue 2 - p 74
doi: 10.1097/CNJ.0000000000000702
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Beginning or sustaining a faith community nursing ministry is no small task. Whether starting from scratch or working with an existing program, a long range, sustainable, and adaptable ministry model allows the healthcare ministry to thrive beyond current leadership and community needs.

When considering sustainability, it is helpful to begin with the end in mind. For most faith community nurses (FCNs), the end goal is a vibrant, growing ministry that provides evidence-based, high-quality, wholistic healthcare focusing on the intentional care of the spirit. Sustainability and succession plans are important to avoid the unintended outcome of the ministry ending when you can no longer participate.

Begin by considering financial and physical sustainability. It is important to convey to the leadership of your organization that FCN ministry is a significant specialty practice that focuses on health that is compatible with a person's faith beliefs and culture. Such nursing is vital to the health and well-being of congregations, organizations, and populations served and as such is worthy of respect and financial support. Many webinars, courses, and resources can assist FCNs with financial sustainability. It is wise to include FCN ministry as a line item in an organization's annual budget.

Physical sustainability includes a dedicated space for use by the FCN. Regardless of the size or location, the actual space is where people know they will be able to find the FCN. In some cases, the physical space is virtual via the Internet. Physical sustainability also includes volunteers, prayer champions, and other supporters who assist the FCN to provide ministry services.

Of equal value in sustainability is succession planning. Although this may be more difficult to contemplate, wise planning for the future adds value to the ministry nurses have worked hard to create and develop. Ask yourself: If my life changed drastically today and I would no longer be able to serve as an FCN, what would happen to the ministry? What would happen to the people I serve? Who else knows where everything is and what needs to be done regularly? Who else knows the policies and procedures, or even where to find the keys or passwords to access the files? Who knows the routines, and who will lead the projects and represent the ministry at meetings if the FCN cannot?

These are important questions regardless of the age of the FCN provider or the program. Although being replaced may be an unpleasant thought, take comfort in believing that you are passing along a vital health ministry that improves the lives of community members. With succession planning, you will have a say in the future of the ministry because you are planning now. It is comforting to imagine how the ministry will continue to grow, thrive, and serve those in need long after you have exited. As with sustainability, many webinars and resources are available to assist with succession planning. Start now!

Succession Planning

The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (2015) suggests the following steps in planning for succession:

  • Promote nursing leadership and management as desirable specialty roles.
  • Conduct periodic organizational assessments to identify succession planning issues and establish action plans.
  • Serve as a professional role model and mentor to future nursing leaders.
  • Establish mechanisms that provide for early identification and mentoring of staff with leadership potential.
  • Develop a succession plan for one's own position.
  • Value the mentoring relationship for staff professional development. (p. 10)

American Organization for Nursing Leadership. (2015). Nurse executive competencies: Post-acute care. Retrieved from

Resource Toolbox


Briner, B., & Pritchard, R. (2008). The leadership lessons of Jesus: A timeless model for today's leaders. Broadman and Holman.

Canadian Nurses Association. (2003). Succession planning for nursing leadership.

Smart Church Management. (2018, January 24). Is your church ready for a leadership change? 6 tips for creating a succession plan.

Vanderbloemen, W., & Bird, W. (2014). The first five commandments of succession planning.


International Westberg Symposium at the Caring for the Human Spirit Conference, April 20-22, 2020, in Santa Fe, NM. Visit

FCN leadership and coordination webinars are now available. See

Continuing education specific to the practice of faith community nurses is available at

Get instant CE certificates, plus Nurses Christian Fellowship members save 30%!

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship