Rest Ministries, the largest Christian organization that serves the chronically ill, recently did a poll, asking "List some of the programs or resources a church could offer to make it more inviting comfortable" Below is a sampling of the 800+ responses.
1. Send out encouraging emails.
2. Make sure the handicapped stalls in the restroom are functioning and clean.
3. Padded chairs or cushions would make church much easier, or also room for a wheelchair. And an extra place for my family to be able 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. More handicapped parking.
6. Educate the ushers that people arriving late may have difficulty walking or getting out of cars and will need some assistance.
7. Have a couple of people who could call chronically ill folks and check on them when they can't make it to church.
8. When suppers are given, I need help getting my meal or at least understanding from others that I won't be able to wait in a long line.
9. Be cautious when giving people big hugs. It can topple over or hurt the person.
10. Have a video tape of the service, not just a live web cast. Not all our computers 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 truly believed and had faith I'd be healed by now. Please don't go on and on about how good I look even though 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. 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. 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. 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. Have copies of sermon for free on CD or computer.
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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