The holiday season can be the most uplifting and challenging time of the year for all of us. This is particularly the case for people who are homebound or otherwise unable to come to church, visit their friends or see their families. They may feel lonely, isolated and shut-in for most of the year. This isolation can be exacerbated at Christmas, or they may suddenly find themselves hosting friends, groups and church ministries who want to come and visit them. When it comes to ministering to the homebound, our intentions are wonderful; the holiday season is certainly a time when it is important to remember those who we may have forgotten. However, here are some ways you can remember, honor and minister to the homebound throughout the year:
1) Celebrate birthdays. Keep a list of everyone’s birthday. Deliver a birthday card to their home. Better yet, throw them a birthday party. Have the youth group organize it.
2) Flowers. If you have flowers at your Sunday service, take some of them to a homebound person after services have ended. This gives them a tangible connection to the service.
3) Communion. Most homebound people do not receive communion. Select someone or a group of people to take communion to homebound person once a month. Many Episcopal and Catholic congregations have a designated Lay Eucharistic Minister.
4) Secret Pals. Start a Secret Pals group for homebound people. Each person in your church would be paired with a member who is homebound. Church members can send gifts, letters, or just visit with them each month.
5) Christmas visits. Gather a group together and sing carols and hymns. Bring along a basket of fruit or some holiday treats (healthy, of course). Decorate their home for Christmas – but don’t forget to take down the decorations in January.
6) Remember other holidays. Stop by on New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, etc. If children are out of school, bring them with you or have them make a card.
7) Meals. Organize church members to cook together. Deliver to homebound people from your congregation or in your community. Freeze any extras for other occasions when people may need food. Many communities have a “Meals on Wheels” program. Make sure all of your members who are homebound have adequate meals each day.
8) Pray for them. Recognize members who are homebound in your bulletin – it gives a sense of connection to the people in the pews.
9) Record services. If you record your services, take the recording to them. Make sure they have the appropriate technology to listen or watch. Ask congregants to donate a TV or CD-player if necessary. If you do not record your service, mail them the bulletin each week.
10) Special service. Have a special worship service for homebound people who are able to leave their home occasionally. Rent a van or bus to bring them to the church. Sometimes it might be easier for homebound people to have this service on a weekday afternoon or a Saturday. This will also reveal how wheelchair accessible your church is.
11) Cards. Send them cards at unexpected times. Have children and artistic adults make the cards. For those who are not artistic, they can be “pen-pals.”
12) Help with the chores. Many homebound people are unable to care for basic necessities in the home. When you go to visit, be sure to take some light bulbs, toilet paper, paper towels and all-purpose cleaner to help keep things clean and functional in their home.
13) Keep an eye on larger problems with the home. For many homebound people, “home” is an especially crucial place. As foundations crumble and the roof starts to leak, they may find themselves unable to stay in their home. Get a group of “handy-people” together who can make structural repairs, and make sure that people have functional ramps, handle bars or other equipment to help keep them safe in their home.
14) Friends. Many homebound people have other friends who are also unable to travel outside the home. Make sure their phones are working, and show them how to use a phone card for long-distance calls. Offer to arrange a visit to their friends in the area.
15) Give them a concert. Have adults from the choir or children come by occasionally and sing some favorite hymns.
Regular phone calls and acts of kindness express love and show that someone cares.