Some friends were so desperate to get their sick friend to Jesus that they made a hole in the roof where Jesus was preaching (Mark 2:1-4). Jesus didn’t make comments about the mess; he saw their faith and forgave the man’s sins and then healed him (Mark 2:5-8). He clearly wanted the sick to be included when he was ministering to people and teaching them. This raises a challenging question: What could I do to help those with illnesses and physical conditions in my church? This is a massive question and every church will have a different set of needs. Therefore for this post I have some simple suggestions (nothing quite as dramatic as removing a roof!) based on my experience of chronic illness (more on that here) and from what I have learnt from friends.
- People with hearing aids need the microphone to be used not just for the volume of the speaker to be increased but so they can pick up the intended sound rather than other noises. Having spoken to a friend who uses hearing aids and one who does PA I learnt the importance of the microphone being used whenever someone speaks in church. If someone shouts rather than uses the microphone, people with hearing aids often can’t hear. Also even when a microphone is used, unless it is held correctly near the mouth what is said isn’t picked up. Therefore if you are going to speak in church grab a microphone first!
- It can be uncomfortable for those who need to sit for the service to be at the front (so they can see); people offering to sit with them can ease this. When I first needed to start sitting at the front in church I found it difficult because I felt it drew attention to me and my illness. This was because everyone could see me sitting when they all stood up. However, people coming to sit with me each week really helped me feel better about it.
- For those unable to attend church because of illness it can be very isolating; access to sermons and messages/visits make a huge difference. I actually explore this in other posts. I write more about why I felt isolated when sick here and what helped me here.
Simple actions can make a huge difference to some people’s ability to engage with and feel included in church. We all have a role to play and I feel challenged to think about whom in my church I could help. We are called to not just look to our interests but also those of others (Philippians 2:4).