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When a Class/Small Group Member Faces a Life-changing Illness: Four Questions to Ask

Posted: 6/11/19 at 12:20pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)

There are many differences based on generational issues, political issues and socio-economic classes in our churches. There is one thing we all yearn for…a community that cares in times of need. This is especially true when someone is facing a serious, life-changing disease such as cancer. As a Sunday School class or small group, how can we best show that we care? Here are four questions that need answers:

What do we do when we first hear the news that someone has a serious illness? People in churches often expect the pastor or a staff member to contact them first, but that may not be the case! Who in your class knows the person the best? They may know the person better than the pastor knows them. They can ask the hard questions, like the best way to care for the patient and the family. Here are some initial questions to ask when you contact them: 

  • What is the best way for people to show their care and concern for you—cards, phone calls, emails, etc.?
  • Is there a family member who could contact us periodically to let us know how you are doing? A great book to use for reference is Where the Buffaloes Roam: Building a Team for Life’s Challenges by Bob Stone. In the case in the book, someone changed a voicemail greeting every morning about the patient based on weather cues: sunny day=patient doing well, partly cloudy=fair, storming=bad day. People could call and find out how the patient was doing without being intrusive to the family. This book was instrumental in my ministry to share with patients who were going through serious illnesses.

What are their initial needs? Would it be helpful to bring food? When? Set up a schedule. Classes should send cards regularly. If they have children at home: do the children need childcare at times? Do they need transportation to athletics and other events? Do they need lawn care? The list is endless! Find out what would be best and what your people can do.

Are there other ways to help the patient? If the spouse needs to work, does the patient need transportation for treatments? Do they need someone to go to the pharmacy to pick up meds? Does the family need someone occasionally to stay with the patient while they go to church or other family events?

How are the best ways to pray? Of course we all should be praying for them daily! What are some practical ways to know we are praying for the family besides the church prayer list? Send their name to every homebound member. Often, those members would like to do something for the church, and they are frequently prayer warriors! I would suggest checking out Sybil Macbeth’s book, Praying in Color. Have family members pray and color and send some of the pictures to the family! Send texts to family members on a regular basis to ask how to be praying that day. Ask how other family members are doing and how to pray for them. Text the class to let them know how they are doing as you hear. Please make sure you get permission to share! If they are having a good Sunday morning, ask about coming to pray with them as a class.

We all want to know we are cared for (no matter what we are facing.) How can we do a better job of being community/family in all situations?

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org. Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7