Underscore: How do We Continue to Engage Members That Need to Worship at Home
By 2030, because of the aging baby boomers and increased life expectancy, about 72.1 million or more than one in five Americans will be aged 65 or above. As the population ages, many will become homebound and need home-based care,” reports the Administration on Aging.1 How will this impact our members?
Story by Beth Michaels and Juan-Jose Garza
Those numbers undoubtedly translate to an increasing number of members in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who can’t actively attend their local church, or who will need great assistance and support to do so. Are our congregations equipped to assist them and include them in church life? According to Charlotte LV Thoms, EdD, coordinator of the North American Division’s (NAD) Commission for People With Disabilities, some are, but many aren’t. She and others are working to change that.
Involve Every Ministry
Long-term illness or more severe physical limitations are what keep some members from attending church, but it can also include those permanently living in institutional settings or in family members’ homes. It can even include the caretakers of those who have difficulty getting about.
Materials coming from the NAD, like the Disabilities Ministries Handbook, and from Thoms’ office help congregations become better equipped to include and minister to those who can’t make it to church. Among other services, she also makes recommendations to church boards regarding steps they can take to make church facilities more accessible for people who use mobile assistance devices (wheelchairs, crutches, etc.), and to find transportation solutions for those who need help getting to church.
4 Practices of an Inclusive Church
Thoms says one way churches can be more inclusive is to “stop thinking of Disabilities Ministries as a singular ministry,” she says. Instead, it should be part of every ministry in the church. Congregations who strive to include everyone have efforts like telephone volunteers who call those who miss the church services. “They utilize the Internet to connect and reach those unable to attend Sabbath service,” she adds. “Instead of bringing them to the materials, [they] take materials to those at home. … People want to do what they can. Everyone can be involved.”
Pastor Ron Anderson of Ohio Conference’s Chillicothe church says that is the attitude his congregants adopted. “Our congregation is very understanding with members that have medical challenges, realizing that there may be times that they may not be able to fulfill the desire they have to share their gifts,” he says. “It does not take a great deal of effort to be flexible; it is a matter of the heart. When you remember that Jesus died for everyone and they have been given the ‘Great Commission’ as well, who are we to hinder them?”