Care of Congregants and Neighbours During Pandemic

At risk within | At risk neighbours | The healthy within | Caregivers | The healthy outside

At risk within the church

As the pandemic unfolds, those who are at risk may surprise us. Hitherto healthy, vibrant families, after weeks of illness, mortgage and bill payments, may be threatened by financial crisis including bankruptcy. If there is a primary breadwinner in the family who becomes ill, it can create great caregiver strain for the spouse. Children are worried about what will happen to their parents as their lives are suddenly disrupted.

A church that has done advance preparations through organizing individuals, care groups and Deacons is ready to send out volunteers to help others.  Congregants may assist families with driving children to school, taking the sick individuals to the doctor, providing respite care so  spouses can get out for a few hours, or delivering meals to tide the family over for a few days. The deacon’s or mutual aid fund that was developed during the pre-pandemic period is ready to provide for bills that have gone unpaid and for medication that is urgently needed. A member of the congregation who has accounting skills may offer help to ward off bankruptcy. A member with counseling skills may visit a caregiver who is struggling with depression under the huge strain. People who can organize or offer reliable and ongoing childcare to pastors and other caregivers can get organized and determine which families need childcare support. This need will grow, even if the families initally believe that they can cope on their own or may be nervous about their children having more contacts.

As more and more congregants and their families are affected, the church kitchen can become a cafeteria and food distribution centre from which groceries and meals can be distributed. Volunteer drivers can make deliveries to vulnerable congregants who are on their list that is updated daily at the church call-in center.

Please also refer to Spiritual and Emotional Care of Caregivers [PDF from Church World Service]

At risk within | At risk neighbours | The healthy within | Caregivers | The healthy outside

At risk neighbours

Visitation teams from the church already have their list of vulnerable people in the community to visit. They have an assignment that has been pre-determined so they are ready to act once a pandemic has been declared in their community. Their work is based on referrals they received at the community forum held in their church several months prior to the onset of the pandemic or from their congregation’s work at carrying out neighborhood needs assessments (please link to neighbourhood needs assessment in the Pre-pandemic section). Calls are made to check in with these individuals and provide them with assistance as needed. If they do not answer their doors, surrounding neighbours are contacted to see if they have seen the individual or family. It may be that they are afraid to leave their house, or are unable to contact anyone for assistance or make their needs known. When the visitor is unable to contact the neighbor, it may be necessary to contact the police to ensure that a serious incident has not occurred.

Those who visit at risk neighbours need to be sensitive to the cultural differences or religious views of those they serve.  Learning about different cultural and religious views ahead of time will greatly enhance the compassion of the church volunteers serving in their communities.

At risk within | At risk neighbours | The healthy within | Caregivers | The healthy outside

The healthy within the church

During a pandemic, healthy congregants will begin to feel the strain of continually helping families and neighbours. Rotating volunteers rather than calling on the same individuals over and over will be crucial for maintaining some sense of equilibrium among members. Debriefing meetings with spiritual support will be necessary so that volunteers are not disabled by the grief they need to bear each day. They will be asking questions of hope and meaning that will need compassionate listeners.  It will be important for volunteers to have constant updates about the pandemic so that they can counteract fear and paranoia with current information.

At risk within | At risk neighbours | The healthy within | Caregivers | The healthy outside

Caregivers within the church

Caregivers within the church will be at risk because of the emotional and spiritual burdens they carry during a pandemic.  This is particularly true of pastors who by the nature of their calling, their personalities and responsibilities tend to take a very active role in caring for congregants and neighbours. In the midst of a pandemic, caregivers will need assistance in managing workloads, boundaries and their overall well-being. Church leadership will need to be alert to the burdens they carry, ensuring that workloads are rotated between staff and regular debriefing opportunities are provided.

See also: Providing Psychosocial Support: Tips for Leaders and Health Care Staff [PDF] courtesy Canadian Psychological Association

The healthy outside the Church

At risk within | At risk neighbours | The healthy within | Caregivers | The healthy outside

As church members reach out to their neighbors, they will connect with healthy individuals in the community that are caring for their loved ones or seeking to find purposeful involvement in the midst of a pandemic.  It will be important for congregants to listen to the concerns and questions of these individuals and invite them to participate in community outreach activities if they so desire.

At risk within | At risk neighbours | The healthy within | Caregivers | The healthy outside