What can I do for my Dad now that he can't physically make it to church?
My father use to attend services every Sunday. He recently had surgery and is now home, but very weak. My brothers and I have been taking care of him in turns, but I know he wishes he could go to church. Any ideas on what we can do since physically he just can't manage that much moving around and probably won't be able to for awhile?
Church and worship are obviously important to your dad, and your sensitivity to his needs is reflected in your desire to honor him by continuing to provide for his spiritual nurture. Church is important for the homebound, and it's important that those who have been involved in church to remain linked to their faith communities. The vitality of faith connections promotes spiritual health, as well as physical recovery and emotional well-being.
You can suggest a variety of faith-based and worship experiences for your father, even though he may be homebound:
"¢ Check to see if your father's church offers online podcasts of services.
"¢ Check on podcast availability for other churches in your area or for the sermons or services of national ministries.
"¢ Offer to sit with your dad through sermons online or on television, especially if he's unfamiliar with computer technology. The shared experience will mean a great deal to him.
"¢ Ask your father's pastor or priest to come by and pray and to offer communion. Again, you may want to make this a shared experience with you and your siblings or several of your father's close friends.
"¢ Check television channels for faith-based programming, as well as radio stations for nationally broadcast sermons and Bible studies.
"¢ Ask a friend or two to begin a Bible study with your father. Nothing is more important than time with family and friends when someone is homebound.
"¢ Check with your father's church to see if Sunday school classes or small groups are available to stop by for visits. Suggest that they spend a brief time of prayer and Scripture reading with your dad.
"¢ Ask friends with musical gifts if they'd be willing to schedule visits for singing and worship with your father or to perform for your father.
If there's a group in the congregation in which your dad actively participated, ask that group if they might meet at his place a time or two. We did that occasionally when members of our Tuesday morning prayer group were homebound, temporarily or permanently. We brought coffee and treats, so our members didn't have to do anything other than let us show up.
Communion is very important--in our tradition it isn't magic, but part of what we do together as a community. When we take communion out to homebound members, we are taking church to them when they can't come to church.
Homebound folks often feel like "the church" hasn't been there if the pastor doesn't stop by, even if lots and lots of other folks do. But the others should visit anyway. When you're confined to your home, days get long and monotonous. Visits don't have to be long. After we have a fellowship event, the fellowship chair makes up plates of goodies and has folks deliver them to homebound folks.
We also send out a weekly mailing that includes a short devotion and Sunday's bulletin. That makes it possible for homebound folks to keep up with church events and prayer concerns. (It is, however, no substitute for in-person visits.)
www.teachingfaith.com is an internet teaching ministry, which seems like it would be quite helpful for shut-ins. There is video and print material and the materials are free.
There are also some online churches, which seems sort of odd if you think about it; but if you're able to gather a few people (two or three?), then it becomes sort of an outpost. One I've seen is the "DisciplesNet Church," which is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). You can find it at www.disciplesnet.org. Because Disciples share Communion weekly, that is usually a part of the online service presentation. It might be useful to combine watching the church presentation with a visit from an elder or other person from the church with communion... but we Disciples don't believe a person has to have any special credentials to serve Communion, so (unless your tradition forbids it) you can freely use whatever you have on hand as your elements, and share Communion together there.
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