Chronic Illness Articles

April 29, 2010

Study Shows Prayer Determines Church Group’s Success Rate

Filed under: Christian Illness Ministry — Rest Ministries @ 2:35 am

Enthusiasm can be high when you first start putting your plans together to start a small group ministry for those with chronic illness, but even the best of intentions can actually lead to a decrease in prayer time.

You may have the best, most organized plans, but without a daily conversation and walk with the Lord, you may discover you have feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed out about the group, rather than being at peace about your decision.

A study was done by a Small Groups web site and here are their findings regarding prayer:

They found that 83% of leaders who had a strong prayer life reported that at least one person who attended their support group came to know Jesus through the influence of the group. But of those leaders who had what they defined a weak prayer life, only 19% of groups had a member that came to know Christ.

Leaders with a strong prayer life have groups have more than four times the evangelistic impact as groups led by leaders with a weak prayer life.

Are you familiar with the scripture John 15:5? It says, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.’

Regardless of what tips you may discover from friends, church small group trainings, books, or seminary and congregational care resources, remember to keep prayer always the first priority.

Note that the scripture does not say, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches and he who gather together the most resources, seminary resources, books, funds and claims the most mentors, time, and energy will bear the most fruit.’

With the gift of prayer, God has equipped you with the most precious and essential tool to do the work that He has prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Chronic illness ministry support groups in a Christian environment are a special group where people can find encouragement for this path they are on. Eventually they can become disciples themselves, encouraging others who are going through moments of suffering.

Let’s set our sights on creating loving environments of small group illness ministries where people can find comfort despite the pain.We can aim beyond just a typical support group secular setting where people sit around and compare notes on the horrors of chronic illnesses. It’s not supportive or loving to try to discredit the pain people are in by saying we are in more pain.

Instead, together, let’s create an oasis where people can feel safe and comfortable in sharing the daily challenges of their condition and what gets them through it. It can be a place where God and illness can be spoken of in the same room as we seek to find hope in the eternal when our temporary circumstances leave much to be desired.

You may be wondering where to start if you are considering leading a small group ministry for those with chronic illness. The first place to start is with prayer.

Where to start after you have prayed? Get How to Start a Chronic Illness Small Group Ministry, a new book by Lisa Copen, founder of Rest Ministries. 320-pages of step by step instructions from passion to implementation.

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April 16, 2010

Starting a Small Group? Who Will Come?

by Lisa Copen

As you begin to decide on the logistics of your support group, one of the first things to consider is who you would prefer to actually attend.

For example:

– Will your group serve men or women? Adults or teenagers? Or all of the above?

– Can you see your group being helpful for those who have just been diagnosed as well as people who have lived with an illness for decades?

– Do you feel comfortable serving seniors who live at home independently, as well as seniors who reside in assisted living?

– Don’t forget about the many people who live by themselves, plus, those who have large families.

– Will your group be an encouragement to those people who have caregivers in a paid position, as well as those who have caregivers that are family members?

– Will the group serve people who have very limited abilities and are bedridden a great deal of time, as well as those who are able to work full-time outside the home? People’s abilities will vary to the extreme and perhaps change frequently.

– Will there be something beneficial from your group for parents of very young children and those whose children are now in adulthood?

– Do you feel comfortable serving both those who are very financially blessed, as well as those who are living day-to-day on minimum disability assistance?

– Do you feel equipped to serve people who live with a chronic illness, but who also fill a caregiver role for someone such as an elderly parent or a child who lives with disabilities?

– When considering if your small group will have a Christian foundation, are people of any religious background welcome to check it out?

– Will your group membership be open to anyone at any time, or will you have only certain times of the year that new members can join?

As you can see, when it comes to chronic illness and lifestyle, there is no such thing as “typical.”

You may find yourself ministering to a man who is in his twenties. He looks perfectly healthy and even competed in your community marathon last year, but he has recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia (FM or FMS). Perhaps he is going through the emotions of not being able to do what he once did and being told he over did his training last year-and so it’s his fault he is now ill. He may even be teased that fibromyalgia is that “woman’s disease.”

And sitting in a chair next to her may be a man who was just diagnosed with a seizure disorder last week and he is confused and angry about not only his disease, but what is immediately being taken away, such as his ability to drive, coach his son’s T-ball team, and sometimes even perform his job.

Another factor to note: If you do not feel comfortable facilitating some people, you do have the privilege of announcing who the group is actually for at the beginning, since you are the leader. Although you may not wish to exclude anyone, many women, for example, prefer to lead a group for women only. Since there can be a great deal of shared intimacy and vulnerabilities within a support group atmosphere, and the divorce rate among the chronically ill is already high, you may wish to have preventative maintenance and not set up any awkward moments. It is important to remain confident in where your strengths and comfort zones reside.

As you are leading your group you don’t worry about specifically addressing every situation that has been mentioned above, however, it is vital to keep in mind the variety of backgrounds and experiences that those who are attending your group bring with them when they enter the room.

The more efficiently you are able to understand the personalities, the background, and the experiences of those attending your group, the easier it will be to facilitate the group. You will not only be able to just encourage the members who attend, but also point out their strengths, and in turn, help them pass that encouragement onto others.

If you are a small group leader or thinking of starting a group, don’t miss Lisa Copen’s new book, “How to Start a Chronic Illness Small Group Ministry.” Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance tips to what to do when everyone just wants to complain. Discover hundreds of resources at Rest Ministries .

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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.

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