Contact: Kara, Rest Ministries, 858-486-4685, [email protected]
SAN DIEGO, May 2 /Christian Newswire/ -- Many people say that illness makes them become more spiritual, but are they able to get to a church service to have their spiritual needs fulfilled? In a survey of six hundred people done by Rest Ministries, a Christian organization that serves those who live with chronic illness or pain, 44.4% of the respondents said that they attended "less frequently" since being diagnosed with a chronic illness. 17.7% attended more and 37.9% attend church with the same frequency as before they were diagnosed with a chronic illness.
"People with chronic illness have a wide range of challenges," says Rest Ministries' founder, Lisa Copen, 38, who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since 1993. "For some, mornings are very difficult. For others, pain and fatigue is worse in the evening. And once we get to church we are still in pain, trying to find a comfortable seat, stand during worship, and even avoid a hearty shaking of hands or pat on the back which could be excruciatingly painful."
Copen, who is the author of various books for the chronically ill, including So You Want to Start a Chronic Illness/Pain Ministry and Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend, says there are dozens of ways a church can help the chronically ill feel welcome, comfortable and even appreciated. "Even when people aren't able to attend," she says, "a church can reach out to the chronically ill by providing complimentary CDs of the sermon or by posting their bulletin or sermon notes on the church web site."
"People want to feel like others understand that though they appear healthy on the outside, an invisible illness is impacting every area of their life," shares Copen, who also founded National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week held annually in September. www.restministries.org provides practical ways a church can reach out to the chronically ill, including starting a small group in their own church. Rest Ministries' small group program, HopeKeepers, has about 300 groups around the USA and beyond, which provides a refuge to talk about issues related to their spirituality and health.
"Nearly 1 in 2 people live with a chronic condition," say Copen. "They want to be involved in their church, but it's a simple fact they aren't always going to be able to attend services. Rather than sending token 'Get Well' cards, a church can add Christian books on illness to their library; bring in speakers who live with illness, or support a ministry who serves the ill or disabled such as Joni and Friends or Rest Ministries. By providing opportunities to allow people who are ill to feel acknowledged that their gifts and they daily challenges are noticed they will increase their appreciation of their church, and, likely, even their attendance."
For more information or to schedule an interview with Lisa Copen, please contact her assistant Kara at 858-486-4685 or Lisa at [email protected].