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Starting a Support Group at Your Church
A support group can significantly help a person or family experiencing difficulty or special needs for a short or extended period.
Community support groups for people suffering from various diseases are often offered by associations, such as the American Cancer Society or the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Here, those with similar concerns and needs can gather, 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 children or adults.
They have many of the same concerns as you: medical care, home modification, the daily routines of home care, and long-term planning for their loved ones.
I recently met two ladies starting a caregivers’ support group at their church. They have obtained the permission and approval of their pastor.
Then they surveyed all the members of their church who are involved in caring for loved ones in their homes, nursing homes, or as long-distance caregivers.
They found that there were many more people than they personally knew who were caregivers in some way. They were planning to have a meeting for all the members who wanted to participate in a support group soon.
The two women found 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 homes.
There were parents of children from infancy to age 18 who had special needs, especially those with severe illness and disability.
Some wives took care of disabled or ill husbands, and husbands took care of disabled or ill wives. Many adults 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 sought out volunteers among the members who could lead a small group in similar situations.
For example, a mother of a child with special needs would best understand the challenges of other mothers in her situation.
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 all other groups’ experience, knowledge, and resources. There would be quarterly meetings of the larger support group and monthly meetings of the small groups.
How does this benefit the church? It certainly provides a valuable service to members and fellowship to members who may have thought they were alone.
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 shows members that the church cares about them.
In these weeks near Easter, perhaps your church could reach out to those who need support groups daily. They are the caregivers in your church who are being Jesus to their loved ones every day.