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 comfortable" They have provided a sampling of some of the 800+ responses, all of which could be done in 20 minutes or less.
1. Send out encouraging emails.
2. Make an effort to confirm that 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. Have an open mind about a support group for the chronically ill like HopeKeepers. It would make me feel very special that there was an understanding of people's needs that are not always visible.
5. Add more disabled parking, even if they are temporary spots.
6. Inform the ushers that people arriving late may have difficulty walking or getting out of cars and may need some assistance.
7. Have some volunteers who will call the chronically ill people just to check on them when they don't make it to church.
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. Video tape of the service for DVD, don't just do a live web cast. My computer doesn't work that well.
11. Check out the church doors. Can someone with an illness open them with ease? If not, install a mechanical button to push them open.
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 ways to serve within the church that can be performed regularly, but not on a set schedule so that I can still contribute, but there's enough flexibility that I can do the job when I feel well enough to do so.
14. Provide sermon notes in case I can't make it to the worship service and want to listen/take notes later.
15. Acknowledge National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. Rest Ministries has a book list of top 100 Christian books for the chronically ill. Having some of those books in our church bookstore as a display would be a great outreach.
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. Let me know about Christian volunteers from church that will clean house for small fee. Some have offered to clean my house, but I am not able to accept charity yet, but neither can I afford to pay a regular house cleaning service.
18. Have the church help with some of the small costs of providing encouraging books and resources for the church library. The chronically ill often cannot afford all that they'd like to read and will check them out.
19. Remember all of the caregivers in the church--not just caregivers of parents, but spouses and ill children as well.
20. Provide copies for free of the sermon on CD.
If you lead a support group or are considering it, don't miss Lisa Copen's new book, http://StartAnIllnessSupportGroup.com for your ministry needs. Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance and much more!
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