How One Congregation Created a Network of Compassionate Older Adults

Each year, the National Benevolent Association invites congregations and ministries to apply for a Mission & Ministry Grant. These grants are reserved specifically for projects that will impact older adults as well as historically excluded youth and young adults. Below is a story from a grantee who received funds for their work in 2022.

Beloved Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was founded by Rev. Dale Suggs as a place for those who had historically been disenfranchised by religious groups and institutions. At the center of Beloved’s philosophy is love, extravagant grace, radical inclusion, and relentless compassion. Each value is present in the church’s core programming.

In 2020, Beloved Christian Church began its Compassion Practice+ program, which teaches the Compassion Practice (CP) to adults over 50. CP helps practitioners develop and deepen their capacity for compassion through weekly group meetings. Created by Dr. Frank Rogers, Jr., Dr. Andy Dreitcer, and Dr. Mark Yaconnelli, CP is a four-step spiritual discipline that promotes and nurtures compassion for self and others. It is unique in compassion-based programming because it incorporates a “you-turn” for self-reflection, it intentionally and overtly invites the sacred into the process, and it teaches that compassion is not complete unless it is expressed in actions taken to ease the suffering and/or promote the flourishing of self and others. Churches have long told followers to be compassionate. This program teaches how.

To help get this program off the ground, Beloved applied for a Mission & Ministry Grant. Since then, they have watched their program flourish. They’ve hosted several six-week CP+ Educational Seminars, launched weekly CP+ groups, and hosted three workshops for older adults that combine the CP practice, tools for becoming anti-racist, and wellness practices.

Since launching the CP+ program, Beloved has created a nonprofit organization called, Beloved Compassion Network (BCN). The vision behind this nonprofit is to teach, resource, and network with churches, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and for-profit organizations as “Schools of Compassion.”

“We long to share the Compassion Practice far and wide. The NBA Mission & Ministry Grant helped us take this ministry and make it into a multi-congregational, multi-regional, and even multi-national project,” says Rev. Suggs. “We have learned the practice can be applied in real-world situations and used to inspire and empower personal and social change. Without the funds to help us get going, we never could have made this move!”

Learn more about the Compassion Practice and how it’s impacting the San Diego community by watching the video below.

Are you interested in receiving grant funds for your health and social service project? Consider applying for a Mission & Ministry Grant here.