The “basic care team” is what most people think they are signing up for when they agree to be on a care team. For this reason, there are two advantages to thinking through how to form and supervise a basic care team well.

    1. We must do the basics well before we will create more advanced care teams effectively. This is the proverbial, “You have to walk before you can run,” rationale.
    2. Understanding the basic care team will allow us to communicate effectively about differences that emerge with more advanced care teams. We clarify confusion best, by starting where there is a shared understanding and drawing distinctions from there.

Examples of a Basic Care Team

Think of the family who loses a loved one. The church sends out a meal train invitation to friends of this church member. They rally a few people to check in regularly to “just listen” and “be there.” They ask, “What things need to be done so you can focus on your family and grieving well?” Then, those close to the person take care of things like yard work or getting children to extracurricular events for a period of time.

Think of the couple who just had a child. The church responds in a very similar way. Meals are delivered and as much help as possible is provided to offset the sleep deprivation that is about to ensue. When the situation merits a basic care team, the teams form and dissolve with almost no effort at all. Often, it is so organic, it may not feel like there is an official “team.”

Context for a Basic Care Team

What transferable characteristics can we pull from these examples? Grief and the birth of child are not the only two occasions for a basic care team. Basic care teams are sufficient for…

  • Common Life Experiences – Common life experiences mean that a care team has personal experience they can pull from. Training or expert consultation are not necessary. Intuition and empathy are adequate to guide the care team.
  • Being Overwhelmed – Basic care teams help when the best description of the person is in need is “overwhelmed.” What the care recipient needs is for friends to step in and create of some relief.
  • Clear, Simple Needs – When basic care teams are adequate, short-term meeting of basic needs provides what is required for life to return to normal. By way of medical analogy, the disruption being experienced is like a cut that doesn’t require in stitches.
  • Logistics and Listening – With a basic care team, the job description can be summarized as “help with logistics and listen with compassion.” If more than this is necessary, then the need has moved beyond a basic care team.

Based on this description, you should be able to draw two conclusions. First, when a basic care team is a good fit, these teams are an immense blessing to those receiving care. Second, when more than a basic care team is needed, it makes sense why tensions emerge – the care team feels overwhelmed, the care recipient feels like the church is failing them, and everyone is upset with the pastoral team.

Forming a Basic Care Team

Our next question is, “How does a pastor or elder create a basic care team?” Often, the process is as simple as finding out who the small group leader and/or ministry team leader is for this individual. With this information, asking the individual in need of care, “Do you mind if I reach out to them and let them know what you’re facing?” gets the care team rolling.

If the individual in need of care is not well connected to the church, then the question, “Who do you know best at church?” can reveal the names of people who are in a small group. Asking these individuals if they would rally care for their friend is a way to both provide immediate care and cultivate long-term connection to the church.

The pastor needs to make a note to follow up with both the person receiving care and the small group leader. Care teams do not replace pastoral care. Following up with the person receiving care, helps them not feel forgotten; following up with the person leading the care team, helps them not feel used.

Care teams do not replace pastoral care. Following up with the person receiving care, helps them not feel forgotten; following up with the person leading the care team, helps them not feel used. Click To Tweet

Communication on a Basic Care Team

Because basic care teams are for common life experiences, the role of stigma and the propensity for gossip is low. Usually information like the death of a loved one or the birth of a child are already public information. When the concern for privacy emerges with a care need, that is an indication that a more advanced care team is likely needed.

The focus of communication on a basic care team is to “not drop the ball.” The goal of the basic care team is to provide relief. If someone is expecting a meal and it doesn’t come, that compounds stress instead of relieving it. As long as the care team avoids snafu’s like this, they should be effective and greatly appreciated.


Basic care teams should be easy. They are the ministry equivalent of preparing macaroni and cheese from a box. For a quick side dish in a pinch, they work great. For a fancier occasion, not so much. Similarly, for more complex needs, a basic care team doesn’t work so well. That is where we will turn our attention next: (a) what are the indicators that a crisis care team is needed, and (b) what is different in creating and overseeing a crisis care team?