13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5:13-15 NIV)
I am writing this early because I have a close family member having major surgery next week. In preparation, I thought about the importance of Sunday School/Bible study classes in ministering to persons in the group. As I have mentioned before: “Teaching the Bible is like gardening…cultivating and nourishing the soil is just as important as planting the seeds.” People need to see you care for them in order for them to be open to the Spirit and God’s Word in community. Here are some ideas:
Care Group leaders need to be sensitive to the needs of their group. (I have shared this organizational structure for care groups. If you don’t have the document, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Call and check on members who are absent to make sure they are okay. When you hear one is going in the hospital, here are some practical ways to help:
Pray! This is the most important thing we can do! Ask permission to share their name on the prayer list. Ask them what they would want you to share about the prayer concern. They may not want information shared. (Churches have been sued by members for adding them to the prayer list without permission.) If they are open to sharing the prayer concern, take time to pray with them, and have the class be in prayer as well. Start a prayer chain if you don’t have one already! If they are in class the week before the surgery, surround them at the end of the study and pray as a class. Share the concern with the Pastor and staff (with permission of the member.)
Provide care for their family. Line up meals to help the family during the crisis. See if they need help with childcare and/or transportation for children during the hospital visit. Don’t just say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” Give some practical ways you can help. They may need someone to take care of a pet as well. They may need some yard work done before they are able to do it themselves. If it is a large family and a long surgery, provide some snacks for them or money to cover a meal that day.
Start a class fund to help with care. A men’s class from a previous ministry would give a dollar every Sunday to a class fund to provide flowers, cards, financial help or meals for their members.
Go with your Pastor, staff or a deacon to visit them in the hospital. They need to see laypersons that care. They expect the staff to visit, but your presence can make a big difference to them!