What are your requirements to be called “HopeKeepers”?
We request that during your HopeKeepers meeting you do not discuss treatments, alternative medicines, etc. without letting everyone know in advance that this will be the topic for that particular meeting. As groups grow together people may want to discuss these subjects but oftentimes they become sessions of “you should try…” and people grow uncomfortable.
We recommend having a separate evening every 6 mos. or so and call it something like “information exchange night.” Allow everyone to bring anything that they wish to share, but no “you shoulds” and no asking people the next week if they “followed up with your suggestion.” There is no shortage of information on treatments and cures, so we suggest allowing you hk group to be a refuge from “cures.”
As far as what activities consist of, we give you the freedom to decide. Some groups meet in the home, some in a public location. Some groups are more structured with studies, others just discuss a particular topic. Some are church members only and others use it as an outreach for hurting people in the community. Some have speakers. We encourage you to be flexible and see what format works best for your group.
Is the group for people with illness or can spouses participate too?
It’s up to you! Some groups have members who cannot drive and so spouses have attended and it has added a great deal to the discussions and growth of the group and individuals. Or you may want to have spouses attend every few months, invite them to meet every time with you, or invite them to have their
own discussions in another area. A few times we’ve had the spouses close in prayer together in a separate area. The only complaint? We didn’t
have enough time!
Are HopeKeepers just for women or can men come too?
Yes! We welcome men! We’ve found that sometimes women are more eager to discuss the emotions that they are going through than men are, but we certainly welcome men and the Bible studies have many examples of men with chronic illness. If you would prefer to have your group consist of just women, that’s fine too. Perhaps if there is a great interest you may want to have both a men and womens group and then have them get together every few months.
Are the groups just for people with chronic illness or can people with cancer attend?
If you have
or have had cancer there are many aspects that are similar to chronic illness. Side effects from cancer treatment often last a lifetime and the threat of its return and it’s toll on one immune system often makes cancer feel like a chronic illness. Invite people who have cancer. If there are a lot, than you may ask them if they would prefer their own group, but they will likely feel comfortable with your group. We’ve heard that the Bible studies we distribute address cancer issues well.
How can I get some of our more elderly people at church (who would greatly benefit from HopeKeepers) to come?
Oftentimes seniors have lived with chronic illness for years and have “done just fine.” They grew up during a time when you didn’t talk about your problems; you just dealt with it. But when they do attend HopeKeepers, years of emotions pour out. To encourage them to participate, ask about 4-5 seniors if they would mind coming and being on a panel for your group. Explain to them that the “younger generation” would like to hear how they have lived successfully with illness; how they’ve held onto their faith during difficult times, etc.
Tell them that they are welcome to invite a few friends and then encourage your group to come and bring a few questions. We’ve heard that this has worked wonderfully and that the seniors really felt like they were helping and then asked if they could come back to the next group meeting just to participate.We all have ministries. Some of just need a bit of a nudge to remember how much wisdom we hold in our experiences.
Does my group have to be in a church?
The short answer is… no. However, we do encourage people to start a group with the support of the church. You are able to get the word out easily and recruit volunteers to help with the administrative tasks. This is some information that your church may be interested in
- About 1 in 2 people in the United States has a chronic illness. Churches rarely realize how many people in their congregation are hurting.
- Very few churches currently have a group or ongoing support for people who live with chronic illness or pain. Your church will be meeting a very large need in the community.
A HopeKeepers group is a great outreach tool for the church. Local papers usually offer free listings of times and places for such groups and people will come to the group from the community. Attending the church will often follow. The chronically ill will be pleased a church is recognizing their needs. Despite what people may believe, it’s unlikely the chronically ill will add much of a burden. By offering a small group, newsletter, and an occasional article in the church newsletter, they will feel you understand.
Oftentimes people come to the church for the first time, or return after many years, following a diagnosis of a chronic illness. We need to know how to reach out to these people and how to offer them hope, despite the grim circumstances. The New Age community is reaching out to people in chronic pain in a big way. The church must continue to be competitive for these souls.
That being said, some churches are not as receptive to HopeKeepers or any kind of illness ministry. If you feel called to have it in your home or a public place, that is your decision that we support wholeheartedly!