In my post earlier this week, I described a major failure to care for a family in need at our church. Disease had ravaged this family and they needed more from their church than we gave. As I reflected on the circumstances and committed to do all that I could to never let it happen again, it occurred to me that it would be worthwhile to share some insights on caring for people. The truth is that the staff at Highpoint, or any other church, cannot adequately love every person in our body… and that was never the Lord’s desire. We’re all called to love one another. Let me share the top 4 things you need to know to effectively care for people…
1. Don’t put the burden on the one in need.
When someone’s going through a crisis or illness, they’re never at their best. If they were, they wouldn’t need your care. We need to be aware that their struggle is real and we need to move toward them with empathy.
Emotions are raw and people usually feel like their world is spinning out of control. Outside the situation, it’s easy to be objective and assume you’re doing a good deed, then assess your willingness to continue to care based on how they respond. If they don’t reply to a call or reach back out to acknowledge your care, don’t assume they no longer desire or need help. If you assume anything, assume that life is tough and it’s taking all of their energy and effort to navigate the illness, loss, or crisis they’re enduring. Keep loving them.
2. Make sure you’re meeting their needs.
On occasion, people are eager to help… but on their own terms. The group wants to make meals, but what the family really needs might be someone to listen. Or the converse may be true. Maybe they don’t need a dozen hospital visits, but some help getting their children to and from school. It’s important to remember that each situation and family is unique. How do we prove that love works? We ask, “What specific ways can we help your family right now?”
3. Crises are not always quick.
Right now is an important concept to remember. Often, the needs a family has will change if the crisis lasts over an extended period of time. We must be willing to love all the way through the journey. Ask how you can help on a regular basis… and then listen.
If you’re part of a group caring for someone in need, it’s also helpful to have one or two people serve as the point of contact with the family. They can then rally the entire group to provide the care best suited for the situation and share the burden over the long haul. Many texts and calls of encouragement are great, but a few designated people discerning needs is helpful.Sometimes you’ll be caring for someone you know well and other times it may be a newer relationship. By having just a few people communicate with the family, it allows the family to develop a trusted rapport with those few and it keeps the family from the burden of continually having to orient someone to their new norm.
4. You won’t go wrong reaching out.
People need to know they matter. We cannot believe the lie that our contact isn’t important. It absolutely is. If you’ve noticed that someone in your group, class, or team has been gone for a week or two, make it a priority to contact them and let them know they’re missed. You cannot overestimate how the Lord can use that one act of kindness.
In a crisis, it’s often the time when the people affected are wondering, “Where’s God?” We’re called to answer that question. We must be the hands and feet of Jesus and remind people that He deeply cares. We have the privilege of proving His love.