Rest Ministries, the largest Christian organization that specifically serves the chronically ill, recently did a survey and asked people to "List some of the programs or resources a church could offer to make it more inviting comfortable" They have provided a sampling of some of the 800+ responses, all of which could be done in 20 minutes or less.
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. Be open-minded about a support group for the chronically ill like HopeKeepers. It would make me feel very special, knowing that there is an understanding of people's needs that are not always visible.
5. More handicapped parking.
6. Educate the ushers that people arriving late may have difficulty walking or getting out of cars and will need some assistance.
7. Ask volunteers to call people with chronic illness just to check on them when they don't make it to services.
8. When suppers are given, recognize that I may need help getting my meal--or at least understand that I won't be able to wait in a long line.
9. Be cautious when giving people big hugs. It can topple over or hurt the 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. Stop telling me that if I really believed and had faith I would be healed by now. Please don't insist how good 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. Make the sermon notes available to download and print out so I can listen later or even just review what I didn't catch the first time.
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 mention about chronic illness! Talk about it in sermons as one of the challenges many people face just like unemployment.
17. Let me know about any Christian volunteers from church who would be willing to clean my house for a small fee. Some have offered to clean my house, but I am just not yet able to accept charity. But neither can I afford to pay a regular house cleaning service.
18. Have the church help with some of the small costs of providing encouraging books and resources for the church library. The chronically ill often cannot afford all that they'd like to read and will check them out.
19. Remember how many caregivers are in the church, not just caregiving for their parents, but also for their spouses or ill children.
20. Provide copies for free of the sermon on CD.
Get a free list of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from "Beyond Casseroles" by Lisa Copen when you signup for to HopeNotes illness ezine at Rest Ministries, the founder and sponsor of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.