Caring for the Caregiver: Preparation for a ministry

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles.

Dennis Wilkins has worked in the corporate world and has served as a pastor. He served as an associational missionary until his retirement. He now serves as a deacon and cares for his wife of 56 years.

Once a person or church has decided to start a Caring for the Care Giver Ministry, several steps are necessary.   

First, an assessment of need should take place. The size of your field of ministry needs to be determined. This can be done in several ways: (1) Consult your pastor. (2) Review your church prayer list to determine how many people receiving prayer also have a family member taking care of them. (3) Through announcements and church bulletins, let the church body know the ministry you are establishing is about family caregivers. Get the word out, talk it up. It is amazing how many people seem to be waiting for this ministry to be formed. 

Secondly, once you have an idea of who and how many families are in need, then you do two things: (1) Schedule an exploratory meeting with members of the church who might be interested in serving as a caregiver supporter. This meeting needs to be scheduled far enough in advance to allow time to prepare content. (2) Select supporters, the people who will be implementing the caring for the care giver ministry. 

There are several steps to identifying and soliciting Caring for the Care Giver Supporters. (1) Quite a few people will come just to hear what is going on. Don’t prejudge them because several will look at this as a way they can serve. In some cases, they will be friends of a family caregiver they want to support. (2) Personally seek out and establish a core group that will support this ministry. Many people have experience in caregiving and are willing to use that experience to help others.  Warning!  If their experience is recent their feelings may be too raw to participate, but because of their experience, they may be a source of ideas about support. 

So, by now you have made a decision to implement the Caring for the Care Giver Ministry.  You have done an assessment of needs, you have promoted the ministry and created interest among the congregation, you have selected a core group of supporters, and scheduled an exploratory meeting.  What is the agenda for the exploratory meeting? 

The exploratory meeting should be a meeting that fleshes out the Caring for the Care Giver Ministry. 

Those items to be discussed should include, but are not limited to the following: 

Minimum frequency of contact. In other words, what will be expected of a supporter caring for a caregiver? 

  • Telephone contact; weekly or monthly 

Telephone contact is easy and can be done as often as the supporter wants to with a minimum frequency established as no less than once a month. Also, some supporters check with their caregiver by text weekly. This does not replace a phone call. 

  • Letter or card contact; monthly 

Letters or cards can be written and mailed once a month. The practice can include cards signed by all members of the support team. This can be done at monthly team meetings. It demonstrates to the caregiver that the entire church is supporting them. 

  • Personal visit; monthly 

Encourage each supporter to schedule at least one personal visit per month.  

There are other activities to be included. Some of them are seasonal, and others provide a necessary service. A few examples follow: 

  • Mowing grass, general yard work (pulling weeds, raking weeds, etc.). 
  • Resetting house clocks after time change, twice a year. (Some house clocks require standing on a ladder or step ladder.) 
  • Replacing A/C filters should be done twice a year. (Some A/C filter changes require standing on a ladder or step ladder.) 
  • House cleaning (a decent job can take three or more hours). 
  • Providing meals – either homemade or otherwise. 
  • Providing a sitting service while caregiver runs an errand. 
  • Running errands for the caregiver. 
  • Other 

In some cases, the church youth can be engaged to assist in performing these tasks. It is a good way to introduce ministry to them. 

All of these items should be mentioned to the potential supporters, but the supporters need to understand the commitment necessary to make the ministry to the caregiver successful. 

The demands, while they look daunting, can be mitigated by the number of caregivers assigned to each two-member team. A goal should be to have enough volunteers so that each team is assigned one to two caregivers. This makes the ministry manageable for the average support team. 

Once the agenda of the exploratory meeting is near its end, it is time to ask for supporters to commit to serving. When they do, pair them up into groups of two. A husband and wife should form a team. As a rule, you will have more women volunteers.  

Sometimes it is good to let them pair themselves. Once the pairings are complete schedule another meeting the following week. At this meeting, have prepared the distribution of caregivers to hand out and discuss. Do not leave this second meeting without having distributed all the caregivers to the supporters. 

There should be a regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the teams to discuss progress and needs of their caregivers, exchange of ideas, and discuss successes and failures. This builds confidence in the teams. 

The next article will address the documents that are a necessary part of this ministry. These will also be a part of an exploratory meeting.  

Anytime you have a question or need information or clarification of information do not hesitate to give me a call.  Dennis Wilkins, 501-259-8197 

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