Starting a Support Group at Your Church
A support group can be a great help to a person or family who is experiencing difficulty or has special needs for a short time or an extended period.
There are support groups in communities for people who suffer from various diseases, often offered by associations, such as the American Cancer Society or the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Here those with similar concerns and needs can gather and exchange information and gain information and emotional support for their situations.
Why not start a caregiver support group at your church? I’ll bet that you know other caregivers in your church. They may be caregivers of sick spouses, caregivers of elderly parents, or caregivers of special needs children or adults. They have many of the same concerns as you do: medical care, home modification, the daily routines of home-care, and long-term planning for their loved ones.
I recently met two ladies who are starting a caregivers’ support group at their church. They have obtained the permission and approval of their pastor. Then they made a survey of all the members of their church who are involved in caring for loved ones in their homes, in nursing homes or as long-distance caregivers.
They found that there were many more people than they personally knew who caregivers in some way. They were planning to have a meeting for all of the members who wanted to participate in a support group in the near future.
The two women found that there were many diverse circumstances among church members who were now involved in caregiving. Some were adults caring for their elderly mothers in their homes; some were adults caring for elderly fathers in their homes.
Some were adults visiting their elderly parents still in their homes and meeting the needs of parents there. There were mothers of adults with special needs who lived in their family home. There were parents of children, from infancy to age 18, who had special needs, especially those with serious illness and disability.
There were wives who took care of disabled or ill husbands, and husbands who took care of disabled or ill wives. There were many adults who visited nursing homes or other facilities where family members resided.
The two friends realized that every one of these church members needed the support of their church family to make a difference in their lives and to give them encouragement and support in their difficulties. A group of a few others in similar circumstances could be a lifeline for them from their church.
But how could support groups adequately address so many different issues? They decided to seek out volunteers among the members who could lead a small group who had similar situations.
For example, a mother of a child with special needs would best understand the challenges of other mothers in her situation. In this way, the support group would consist of smaller groups with a targeted purpose and membership.
Each small group would have a leader who would communicate with the Leadership Committee, and there would be coordination and planning with all the groups. One small group could call upon the experience, knowledge and resources of all other groups. There would be quarterly meetings of the whole larger support group with monthly meetings of the small groups.
How does this benefit the church? It certainly provides a valuable service to members, and provides fellowship to members who may have thought they were alone in their situation.
Getting to know these members and their challenges and needs would be worthwhile to the pastors and church leaders, because it would reveal how a church and its ministries can make a real, daily difference in the lives of people who need them. Hosting and supporting a support group for caregivers at church is a sign to members that the church really cares about them.
In these weeks near Easter, perhaps your church could reach out to those who really need support group on a daily basis. They are the caregivers in your church, who are being Jesus to their loved ones every day