How can a church minister to one who is ill if they have a small budget and not a lot of people who understand the needs?
Here is a good place to start! In 2009 we did a survey here at Rest Ministries asking people to “List some of the programs or resources a church could offer to make it more inviting comfortable.”
Below is a sampling of some of the 800+ responses, all of which could be done in 20 minutes or less.
- Encouragement emails.
- Make sure the handicapped stalls in the bathroom are functioning and clean.
- Padded chairs or cushions, room for wheelchairs, and plenty of room for my family to sit with me.
- An open attitude for a support group like HopeKeepers. It would make me feel very special that there was an understanding of needs that are not always visible.
- More handicapped parking.
- Educate the ushers that people arriving late may have difficulty walking or getting out of cars and will need some assistance.
- Have a couple of people who could call chronically ill folks and check on them when they can’t make it to church.
- When suppers are given, recognize that I may need help getting my meal–or at least understand that I won’t be able to wait in a long line.
- Be cautious when hugging. It may topple over or hurt a person.
- Have a video tape of the service, not just a live web cast. Not all our computers work that well.
- Check out the church doors and see if someone with an illness can open them with ease. If not, install a mechanical button to push them open.
- Stop telling me that if I really believed and had faith I would be healed by now. Please don’t insist how good I look, because I know for a fact that I look terrible and miserable that day.
- Offer me ways to serve within the church that can be performed regularly, but not on a set schedule. I really want to contribute, but I need some flexibility so that I can do a job when I feel well enough.
- Make the sermon notes available to download and print out so I can listen later or even just review what I didn’t catch the first time.
- Acknowledge National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. Having some of those books in our church bookstore as a display would be a great outreach.
- Just talk about chronic illness! Mention it in sermons as one of the challenges many people face just like unemployment.
- Let me know about any Christian volunteers from church who would be willing to clean my house for a small fee. Some have offered to clean my house, but I am just not yet able to accept charity. But neither can I afford to pay a regular house cleaning service.
- Help even a fraction with the cost of encouraging books and resources for the church library for the chronically ill.
- Remember all of the caregivers in the church–not just caregivers of parents, but spouses and ill children as well.
- Provide copies for free of the sermon on CD. Not everyone has an ipod or MP3 player to hear the downloads.
What kinds of suggestions would you like to add to this list?
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She is gradually learning how to balance motherhood, family, illness, and ministry, but she still knows it will be a lifetime lesson. You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop.