Did you know that the church has a role to play in caregiving? In fact, a healthy church could reasonably expect to touch caregiving on several different levels.
Betsy and I grew up in different denominations; she was Southern Baptist, and I was Methodist. Both of us saw how the church ministered to its aging members and their families through illnesses, loss of mobility, chronic diseases and death. To be a part of a church body has always meant being a member of a family unrelated by blood but bound together by a common faith and a belief system that calls us to care for one another even as we would want to be cared for.
Many of today’s churches have an abundance of members who need care or assistance. Over time these seniors move to the “homebound” ministry and largely vanish from active fellowship. When people who were once vital to leadership or support roles throughout the congregation become limited by physical challenges, losses are felt on both sides. The church that doesn’t find a way to reach out and engage its homebound members loses opportunities to benefit from wisdom and experience. The homebound members lose fellowship and an important sense of connectedness that keeps them feeling loved and supported.
Homebound ministry programs can bridge the gap, plugging younger members in to build relationships with older members who can no longer get out and go to church. Too often, however, this type of caregiving isn’t recognized by most of the members who come to worship, study scripture, and otherwise make the church the center of their lives. It is largely an invisible ministry program because, unlike music, children’s ministry, singles, and missions, it never gets placed in front of the church members and highlighted. Most churches don’t do a good job of sharing the testimony of their homebound members who have benefitted from visits, fruit baskets, meals, and the like. Likewise, few churches offer support groups for family caregivers. Senior adult ministry programs might address some of these important needs, but more emphasis is needed to make members aware of the opportunities that are literally all around them.
The church’s primary mission, as it has always been, is to make disciples for Christ. Next, it must nurture and care for those disciples and equip them to evangelize their own corner of the world. Aging seniors and their family caregivers need this nurture and care as well as the equipping. If they cannot still attend church, then the church must attend to them. Family caregivers need to know that their loved ones are not forgotten by their church families, and that their own church fellowship has not forgotten the caregiver as well.
Betsy and I hope you will join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver dot com and share your heart about how you see the role of your church in caregiving.