By Aaron Earls
In the midst of the holiday cheer, many Americans may be feeling a little worse this year.
Well-being among U.S. adults declined in 2017, according to Gallup. After two straight years of improvement, the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index score fell from 62.1 in 2016 to 61.5.
The 0.6 drop “is both statistically significant and meaningfully large,” according to Gallup.
The Well-Being Index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is the highest possible well-being. It uses metrics from five elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical.
In Jeremiah 29:7, God tells the exiles in Babylon to seek the shalom of their new home. The biblical idea of shalom means more than peace. It carries the idea of success, completeness, and well-being.
A decline in well-being is an opportunity for a church to minister to its neighborhood.
Using the five elements of Gallup’s measurement and one additional metric, here are ways churches can improve the well-being of residents in their community.
Purpose: This relates to enjoying your work and having motivation to set and reach goals.
Residents of large communities struggle with this more than those in other areas, according to Gallup’s analysis.
Churches can offer technological training or help with résumés for people looking to change jobs to something more fulfilling.
Have contact information for local programs or training centers that can provide assistance beyond what the church can offer.
Social: Gallup defines well-being in this area as having supportive relationships and love in your life.
This should come naturally to churches, but every congregation can do things to improve the relationships of those within their pews and in their community.
Plan marriage and relationship seminars to strengthen families. Provide child care so parents, even those who aren’t part of the church yet, can go out on a date.
Welcome singles fully into the church body. Open homes to them and affirm what God is doing in their lives right now.
Financial: Well-being here is managing economic life to reduce stress and increase security.
Jesus had a lot to say about money, so churches shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it and help their community better understand its role.
Offer budgeting classes to church members and neighbors. Use an expert in your congregation or bring someone in for a day to help people with their taxes.
Community: Residents have well-being in this area when they like where they live, they feel safe and have pride in their community.
The smaller the community, the higher the score on community well-being, which means this is an especially prevalent need in larger cities.
Church groups can participate in adopt-a-highway programs to clean up litter from nearby roads. Members can partner with local schools to make sure children have proper supplies like backpacks or winter coats.
Offer the church building to community leaders as a place to hold discussions about the needs and potential problems within the area. Work with those leaders to address the issues.
Physical: Gallup defines physical well-being as good health and enough energy to get things done daily.
Residents of small towns in particular struggle to maintain healthy lifestyles, with higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, clinical depression, and smoking.
Churches can play an important role in encouraging members to lead healthier lives. Provide healthful options at fellowship meals and allow groups to use church space for exercise.
Offer training for the community on healthy eating. Help families learn how to purchase better foods on a budget instead of resorting to cheaper junk foods.
Spiritual: While the Gallup survey does not include this aspect of well-being, we recognize people cannot be truly well if they are spiritually sick.
This is the obvious area for a church to serve its members and the community. Get those at church involved in Bible reading, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines.
Show Christ’s love to people in your community through outreach in the other areas of well-being with the hope that they will see their need for spiritual well-being and turn to Jesus.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.