Caring for the chronically and severely ill in the church

I don't have an answer to this one. But I know of wise commenters who know a lot about this from experience: from living through it, from minister to others, from being let down, and from being lifted up.

So please do comment on the blog or on the Facebook Page. I might ask you for permission to post your comments in a follow up post, too - so if you are happy with that, you could maybe put an asterisk in your comment? :-)

A couple of thoughts though:

1. We could do better. Those who don't fit the model of the 'normal', the 'happy', the 'healthy', the 'ministry candidate' often get overlooked, undervalued, disenfranchised. We need to talk about people bearing up under difficult illness, honour them, pray for them, apply the Scriptures to them in our public teaching.

2. We can't fix it. Those experiencing serious illness suffer in a whole range of ways. Their experience is, among other things, one of pain and grief. One day Christ will return, restore their bodies and wipe away every tear. But now things will be hard. The church might not be able to take that pain away. The suffering person might experience all sorts of pain as a part of their Christian life and church life that can't be fully removed.

3. Try to love the chronically ill the way you love the critically ill. What things do we do for short term emergencies and disasters? Which of those can reasonably be done on occasion for those who are chronnically ill? I know of a couple where one had chornic fatigue. They hear of another person who got chronic fatigue and sent them flowers.

4. It is hard to care for people outside of the normal routines of life. We will always find it easier to do things and love people that fit into our normal routines of life. To love people who are out of our way is very dfificult for people with full lives. This has all sorts of implications:

  • The church needs to work hard to build in new routines and structures to make it easier to consistently care for people.
  • Those who are ill would do well to try wherever possible to fit into regular structures and rhythms.
  • Relying on spontaneous love is mostly unrealistic - 

5. Figure out what things should be done by church leaders and what things by church members.

  • It will be hard for church staff and leaders to meet all the needs of the sick in the church.
  • Set up systems of loving care in the church, so that those who are ill are regularly cared for practically and spiritually.
  • Realise that this 'counts' as church love.
  • Realise that at the same time, the symbolic love from the minister or the elders is still important and powerful, even if less regular.

6. Use a range of media - from physical visits, to emails, letters, gifts, practical help. Think about how you can share more of the weekly church gathering than just the sermon podcast.

7. Remember to support family and carers. Even when we do a great job of loving the sick person, we can forget to support the family and carers. Carer for the severely ill can take an enormous toll in terms of depression, loss, loneliness, fatigue, anxiety, financial pressure and a sense of feeling trapped.

8. Consider how the church building serves those who are ill. What is entry access and disability parking like? Are there places where someone can sit in a quiet? Are there places where someone could lie down if they needed to?

9. Work hard to understand. Ask questions. Be slow to judge. Be patient with 'good days' and 'bad days' and last minute cancellations. Check often to see what will actually be helpful.

10. Keep your promises. Don't talk big and then fail to deliver. Better to offer a little bit and actually follow up on it. In the slow pace of serious illness, disappointements can sometimes stand very tall.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to