Because of coronavirus, many churches have fast figured out how to live stream their church services and create online small groups to disciple members. But now they are facing a new challenge: How do you love people well who have COVID-19 when you can’t visit them in the hospital or in their home?
Here are seven ways churches can help people with the coronavirus, even when you can’t physically be with them.
1. Make sure they feel connected
You may not be able to visit someone who has coronavirus, but you can stay connected through technology. Video conferencing tools make it easy to have virtual face-to-face conversations with those who are able. Faithlife Messages includes a free, powerful video chat feature you can use on a computer or mobile device. You can send the chat link to someone who is sick—even if they’re not part of your Faithlife group.
If the sick person is not comfortable with technology, a good old-fashioned phone call to someone fighting coronavirus will make a world of difference and help them feel like they are not alone. Or create a schedule for church members to regularly check in on those with coronavirus—especially if the sick person lives alone. This will also keep you informed on how they’re doing and what they need.
And though you might not be able to do physical hospital visits, you can send texts or short videos letting the sick person know you care and are praying.
2. Offer to help with daily tasks
Chances are if someone has been diagnosed with coronavirus (or is showing symptoms), they might be overwhelmed mentally and not even sure what they need. This is the time for your church to jump in and act—and an easy way to do this without coming in contact with the person is by helping with day-to-day tasks. Do they need a mail pickup? Do their garbage cans need to be pulled out? Does the lawn need to be mowed? Relieving someone with coronavirus of simple tasks will help them be able to focus on what’s most important: getting well.
3. Set up a benevolence fund
Many people will get paid leave from work if they catch COVID-19, but not everyone qualifies. If they’ve been laid off or furloughed, they’ll be concerned about their health—and paying the bills.
That’s where your church comes in. Some people might not feel comfortable leaving their homes, but they’d be eager to help cover someone’s bills. Setting up a benevolence fund for people to give to is an easy way for people to help others instead of feeling sidelined.
4. Drop off groceries
This may be the most obvious opportunity on the list, which means it’s easy to assume someone else is taking care of it. No doubt someone who is sick and quarantined may be low on necessities like food staples, laundry detergent, soap, toothpaste, and of course, toilet paper. Many grocery stores offer online ordering and delivery. Without leaving home, your church can help restock someone’s shelves.
5. Host prayer conference calls
James 5:14–16 says:
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
Prayer is powerful, and just because you can’t lay hands on a person does not mean you can’t gather to pray. Your church leaders can pray for people by name in private, or you can schedule prayer conference calls open to the church. Before you open a prayer call to everyone, make sure you get permission to use a person’s name or status. Some people will feel uncomfortable sharing their health information, and it’s wisest to make sure you don’t run them over in the name of caring for them.
6. Create care packages to help pass time
I know of someone who was diagnosed with coronavirus while vacationing in Australia. She’s now quarantined in a hotel with nothing to do but watch TV—and beyond bored. She posted a message on social media asking anyone who knew anyone near her hotel to find her a jigsaw puzzle or two. The next day, she had a pile of puzzles outside her hotel door, and she posted that it saved her sanity.
Rally your church to pull together care packages with boredom-busters like puzzles, movies, games—even kids’ activities if there are little ones in the home. They can pull from what they have on their shelves, pile everything in a basket, and leave it on their porch with a note saying, “We are praying for you and hope this helps pass the time.”
7. Organize meal delivery
One excellent way to help people with coronavirus, especially if the sick person does not live alone, is to arrange for daily or weekly food delivery. Meal Train, Take Them a Meal, and CareCalendar are free websites that help you create customized online sign-ups to organize meals and other help for people during illness and recovery.
Or take it to the next level and start a food delivery fund to which church members can to. Then, use the money to have food delivered from restaurants that can only offer take-out because of the coronavirus. You’ll bless not only the person who is sick but also the restaurant owners who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic.
Has your church tried any of these ideas? If so, let us know in the comments what’s working—or tell us about other ways you’re caring for the sick in your community!