This article was in my ezine from Rest Ministries called HopeKeepers. Many of you know some of the issues that churches today have with taking care of the chronically ill. Especially younger people who are chronically ill. Some already do a wonderful job of this. Some don't seem to make it a priority, but many others just don't know how to help. This is from the mouths of 800+ people who took a survery about what churches could do. This fantastic article is reprinted with permission from the author.
Ministering to the Chronically Ill: 20 Ways That Take 20 Minutes
by Lisa Copen
Rest Ministries, the largest Christian organization that specifically serves the chronically ill, recently did a survey and asked people to "List some of the programs or resources a church could offer to make it more inviting and comfortable." They have provided a sampling of some of the 800+ responses, all of which could be done in 20 minutes or less.
1. Encouragement emails.
2. Make sure the handicapped stalls in the restroom are functioning and clean.
3. Padded chairs or cushions, room for wheelchairs, and plenty of room for my family to sit with me.
4. Be open-minded about a support group for the chronically ill like HopeKeepers. It would make me feel very special, knowing that there is an understanding of people's needs that are not always visible.
5. Add more disabled parking, even if they are temporary spots.
6. Educate the ushers that people arriving late may have difficulty walking or getting out of cars and will need some assistance.
7. Ask volunteers to call people with chronic illness just to check on them when they don't make it to services.
8. 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.
9. Be gentle when giving people big hugs. It can topple over or hurt a person.
10. Have a video tape of the service, not just a live web cast. Not all our computers work that well.
11. Make sure that the church doors aren't too difficult to open or at least have mechanical assistance if they're unusually heavy.
12. 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.
13. Offer me ways to serve within the church that can be performed regularly, but not on a set schedule. I still want to contribute, but I need some flexibility so that I can do a job when I feel well enough to do so.
14. Have sermon notes available so I can listen later or even just review what I didn't catch the first time.
15. Acknowledge National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. Rest Ministries has a nice book list of top 100 Christian books for the chronically ill. It would make a nice display in your bookstore that week.
16. Just mention chronic illness occasionally! Don't forget to talk about it in sermons as one of the challenges many people face just like unemployment or divorce.
17. Have Christian volunteers from church that will clean house for small fee. Some have offered to clean my house, but I cannot accept charity yet, but neither can I afford to pay a regular house cleaning service.
18. Help with some of the small costs of providing encouraging books and resources for the church library the chronically ill can check out.
19. Remember how many caregivers are in the church, not just caregiving for their parents, but also for their spouses or ill children.
20. Have copies of sermons for free on CD or computer.
Find over 500 ways to encourage a chronically ill friend in the book "Beyond Casseroles: 505
Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend" at www.beyondcasseroles.com
Lisa Copen, Rest Ministries Founder Rest Ministries Chronic Illness Pain Support