Chronic Illness Articles

March 20, 2009

Minister to the Chronically Ill: 20 Ways in 20 Minutes

by Lisa Copen

girl-hug-bearRest Ministries, the largest Christian organization that serves the chronically ill, recently did a poll, asking “List some of the programs or resources a church could offer to make it more inviting comfortable” Below is a sampling of the 800+ responses.

1. Send out encouraging emails.

2. Make sure the handicapped stalls in the restroom are functioning and clean.

3. Add padded chairs or cushions to make church easier to sit through. Room for wheelchairs is always a need and don’t forget to include extra places for family members.

4. An open attitude for a support group like HopeKeepers. It would make me feel very special that there was an understanding of needs that are not always visible.

5. More disabled parking, even if they are temporary spots.

6. Educate the ushers that people arriving late may have difficulty walking or getting out of cars and will need some assistance.

7. Have a couple of people who could call chronically ill folks and check on them when they can’t make it to church.

8. When suppers are given, I need help getting my meal or at least understanding from others that I won’t be able to wait in a long line.

9. Be cautious when hugging. It may topple over or hurt a person.

10. Video tape of the service for DVD, don’t just do a live web cast. My computer doesn’t work that well.

11. Make sure that the church doors aren’t too difficult to open or at least have mechanical assistance if they’re unusually heavy.

12. Please don’t tell me that if I really believed and had faith I would be healed by now. And don’t insist how wonderful I look, because I know for a fact that I look terrible and miserable that day.

13. Offer me ways to serve within the church that can be performed regularly, but not on a set schedule. I still want to contribute, but I need some flexibility so that I can do a job when I feel well enough to do so.

14. Provide sermon notes in case I can’t make it to the worship service and want to listen/take notes later.

15. Acknowledge National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. Rest Ministries has a book list of top 100 Christian books for the chronically ill. Having some of those books in our church bookstore as a display would be a great outreach.

16. Just talk about chronic illness! Mention it in sermons as one of the challenges many people face just like unemployment.

17. Have Christian volunteers from church that will clean house for small fee.  Some have offered to clean my house, but I cannot accept charity yet, but neither can I afford to pay a regular house cleaning service.

18. Help with some of the small costs of providing encouraging books and resources for the church library the chronically ill can check out.

19. Remember there are lots of caregivers in the church–not just caregivers of parents, but spouses and ill children too.

20. Have copies for free of the sermon on CD.

This article is by Lisa Copen and can be reprinted at no cost, if you leave everything exactly “as is” including this footer. Get a free download of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from “Beyond Casseroles” by Lisa Copen when you sign up to receive HopeNotes, Rest Ministries weekly ezine. Also be sure to check out Hope Endures, Rest Ministries weekly radio program every Tues and Thurs and National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.


  1. What an awesome list – wonderful place to start in reaching out to those who need a little ‘helping hand’ now and again. Every church, parish, etc should have this and review it with their members just for the sake of good ministry and outreach … perhaps as an addendum in their bulletins??

    Keep up the wonderful work Lisa. You are a true inspiration and blessing.

    Onward & Upward,

    Comment by Ada Mahle — June 23, 2009 @ 7:46 pm | Reply

  2. Excellent list Lisa! From dealing with chronic illness myself for nearly ten years I found myself nodding and saying “Yes, exactly” to everything on your list. I’m printing it right now and am excited to share it with our church to start making a difference in others lives who are bearing the same burdens.
    Thanks for the inspiration,

    Comment by Katie Duplessis — July 1, 2009 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

  3. Extremely common sense but so often overlooked. Maybe you could include an emergency ba bysitting,”pick-up-the-kids” volunteer group that would be available on an alternating schedule. Or a well person teamed with a chronically ill person so that ministry could be done without always having to protect yourself from overwork or overcommitment. Thanks’ for all that you make available and for all you do! Rose Sasaki

    Comment by Rose Sasaki — July 15, 2009 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

  4. Excellent list, Lisa; but one thing that you left out, was transportation to church; ie., picking one up or driving one home. Some of us don’t even drive or have cars, and are often too sick, weak or in pain to use public transit.

    I myself have simply given up going to church; it’s just too difficult. I can’t get a ride, usually (on a rare occasion, I can). Sometimes I’m well enough to walk, but often, not.

    I hear that some denominations have vans, but I’m not in that particular denomination. Within mine, some parishes have a service that’ll help out, but they don’t run from parish to parish, and my parish doesn’t have it. Silly, isn’t it? Well, where I should be going to church: that’s material for yet another discussion! ;->.

    Comment by Linette — January 31, 2010 @ 10:22 pm | Reply

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