Originally shared by United Methodist Discipleship Ministries

KINGSPORT, Tenn. April 4, 2017 /Discipleship Ministries/ – After nearly two decades serving as a church nurse in Holston Annual Conference congregations, Joy Eastridge heard God’s call to take the next step in her ministry and is now the first certified lay minister with the specialization of United Methodist parish nurse.
“I felt like it was an obedience issue, that in my spirit I was supposed to do this,” said Eastridge, who is in her 12th year as parish nurse at First Broad Street United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee. “I don't have full knowledge of what it means, of what God is calling me to do, but I have learned to be prepared. And whether it changes my ministry or not doesn't matter. I think it's more important that I be prepared.”
Eastridge started the process soon after United Methodist parish nurses were given the opportunity to earn a certification in their specialized ministry in March 2016.
Discipleship Ministries offers a parish nurse specialization for nurses through the certified lay ministry process, in consultation with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the Global Health Division of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM). GBHEM offers deacons or elders who are also parish nurses a certification in parish nurse ministry.
Jodi Cataldo, director of Laity in Leadership at Discipleship Ministries, said the certification opportunity for parish nurses provides a system of training, supervision, support and accountability through the established certified lay minister program.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for parish nurses should they choose to have the title of being connected to the United Methodist system,” Cataldo said. “As a certified lay minister, parish nurses like Joy are assigned by their district superintendent and are connected to their conference’s Committee on Lay Servant Ministries. This builds a much stronger support system within and connection to The United Methodist Church.”
Discipleship Ministries and GBHEM have worked together to develop the basic coursework to prepare nurse leaders for this form of ministry.
Victoria Rebeck, director of Deacon Ministry Development and Provisional Membership at GBHEM’s Division of Ordained Ministry, said both the clergy and lay nurse certification processes provide parish nurses with background in United Methodist history, doctrine and polity, and prepare them to work in UM congregations.
“It is a good way for United Methodist parish nurses to demonstrate to churches where they work their commitment to having particular training in parish nursing and in The United Methodist Church so they are well prepared to be parish nurses in United Methodist churches,” Rebeck said.
Eastridge, who is married to a family physician, is a registered nurse and a certified hospice and palliative care nurse. She also works part time as a hospice nurse. Eastridge was first called to be a parish nurse in 1997 and served for several years at another church before joining the staff at First Broad Street UMC in 2005.
Parish nurses complement a church’s pastoral team, and the role of a parish nurse is to work with the pastor in a team approach based on the pastor’s vision for the church, Eastridge said.
A parish nurse helps to promote health and wellness in a church family, is an advocate for people in the congregation and serves as a connector between parishioners and the needed services and people who provide them, she said.
“I see myself as a bridge between people,” Eastridge said. “We have a 2,000-member congregation, so I try to get to know the people and see their needs. I have people who want to volunteer to help others in the church, and I try to build programs and ministries where people can do that.”
Eastridge works with a congregational care team of about 15 people who implement a variety of church-wide events, like walking programs, blood drives, routine blood pressure checks, health fairs and dental clinics.
As a parish nurse, she also performs an evangelistic role in her congregation. “I define evangelism as relationship building, and there is a lot of evangelism that goes on even in the midst of the church family. There are plenty of people who are hurting and who are having struggles with their faith right in our body of Christ, so we do relational evangelism – building relationships and friendships and supporting one another on our journey of faith.”
For more information from Discipleship Ministries about becoming a certified lay minister with a specialization as a United Methodist parish nurse, go to http://bit.ly/2o8wFaK, or email laity@umcdiscipleship.org.
For more information about GBHEM’s education paths for ordained or parish nurse ministry, go to http://bit.ly/2nIJqYR, or email certification@gbhem.org.

The mission of Discipleship Ministries is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, Discipleship Ministries is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, Tenn. For more information, visit www.UMCdiscipleship.org, the Press Center at www.UMCdiscipleship.org/about/press-center or call the Communications Office at (877) 899-2780, Ext. 1726.