Caring for and Connecting with Homebound Members
When trying to stay connected to members who can’t be around the public due to the risk of infection, the church must be creative in ways to reach out to them in meeting their spiritual needs and keeping that connection to the church strong. Here are some suggestions on how to do that.
Sermons on YouTube – Many churches already telecast their Sunday services using YouTube. Having a website for members with sermons is a great way to help those who can’t attend in person be able to worship. However, if you want to keep your members watching, may I suggest the following? Have someone watch the taping of the broadcast as you do it to ensure you are not having technical difficulties. I’ve watched programs without sound for 15 minutes because the microphones are off. Other times, I could hear the people in the sound booth talking about the next shots because they forgot to mute their microphones.
Personalize Church Website – Have a sign-in section for members only for your website where you post information meant only for the membership’s eyes. For example, post each week sharing the announcements made during opening remarks at church or minutes from business meetings. Also, post the church directory, especially if it’s one with labeled pictures, that helps members learn to recognize one another. Most homebound members cannot access this information and, therefore, feel left out of what’s happening there.
Virtual Sunday School and Bible Study – Consider adding a virtual Sunday school class and Bible study options through Zoom, Google Meet, or similar apps where members can see and talk to one another. Members must know other members to feel connected or part of the church family. The best way to do that is to participate in small group activities.
Church Advocate – Form a group of advocates who will connect with your homebound people every week but no less than every two weeks. Select individuals for advocates who are comfortable dealing with those who are depressed and overwhelmed and may be angry at everyone, including them and God. All homebound families should be assigned an advocate. Large families or those with more than one sick or injured family member may need two if the single advocate feels overwhelmed with issues.
Advocates check in with the family caregiver weekly for status reports. The advocate must learn to read the tone of the conversation for any changes indicating the development of new issues. When identifying a new issue, explore concerns and determine if assistance is needed. If so, develop a plan of action with the caregiver, assuming one is not already in place, and assist with carrying out the plan. Bring complex issues to the advocate group to brainstorm ideas.
Work Groups – Many homebound families struggle to take care of the routine home and car maintenance chores everyone must do. They cannot leave home due to the risk of infection or inability to find care coverage. Mowing grass, raking leaves, running errands, etc., are jobs that can’t get done because they are outside, away from the ones needing care.
However, many are willing to pay a small sum to complete the work. Often, teens, college students, and others struggling to make ends meet are willing to do odd jobs like this. Create a job bank coordinator role that can match job needs to resources. When advocates discover a caregiver needs the grass mowed, they call a mower on their list and arrange to meet that need. For those who cannot pay, a designated collection may occur to support them.
Communion – Whatever your faith may be, there are special observances. I am a Christian, and for us, it’s Communion. It’s sacred and an essential part of our faith. Church leaders should ensure that eligible homebound members receive or be allowed to participate in any sacred observance in some way. Most homebound individuals do not want to burden others and will not ask someone to come to them; therefore, church leaders need to take it upon themselves to minister to the needs of their members by offering sacraments.