As a Chaplain Intern at Rex Hospital, I spent many Monday afternoons sitting with one older patient in Long Term Rehab looking over the bulletin from worship at her church the day before. We would discuss the different worship components, read the scriptures, and pray the prayers. One of the richest parts of our conversation was discussing what we would want to say and hear in a sermon based on the scripture reading but she mentioned many times how much she wished could hear what the pastor had to say in their sermon.
Ministering to our homebound members can be a struggle. How much is too much when it comes to visiting? How can we do more beyond taking communion? What if they don’t have a computer to live-stream worship?
I have never worked through this with a congregation, but I have spent a great deal of time with some of those homebound members and heard stories from congregations about how they reach out. The one thing that I know for sure is that this is a ministry that is needed and craved by our members, and one that we can learn best from those around us.
When I visited Berea Presbyterian Church (Four Oaks, NC) last month, Dr. Paul Rowland (CRE) explained that he was going to place a voice recorder on the pulpit before worship. I regularly slip a recorder of some sort in my pocket or on the pulpit so that I can listen back later, so I thought nothing of this. Dr. Rowland continued to explain that in addition to posting the sermon online, he would burn the worship service to a CD and take it to one of the members later. She is not able to come to worship in person, but loves to listen to the recording in the comfort of her living room.
In addition to this recording that I know means so much to those who can’t attend worship and is more accessible than a live-stream for many people, Dr. Rowland not only makes a point to visit homebound members regularly but he shares a picture and word of thanks for the individual via social media when he visits. These posts can serve as reminder and update for other church members and remind others to pray for and even visit their own family and friends who might not be able to get out of the house.
There is no one way to minister to God’s children, and it can be especially hard to do when we may not see some individuals regularly. Sometimes mailing a copy of the bulletin is enough, other times a simple (even if not professional) recording can be incredibly meaningful. When schedules allow, it might be possible for multiple individuals from the congregation to visit and stay in touch but other times our vague but meaningful social media posts can provide just enough information to remind others to pray and update members on the wellbeing of their brothers and sisters.
How do you minister to your homebound members?
How do you involve the congregation in this ministry?
Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer