We elevate who we celebrate in the church. When we gather with some or all from our congregation, we do so in order to worship God through praise, through gathering at his table, through learning, prayer, and service.
But periodically, we put a spotlight on some of his servants. This can include time during a worship service showing appreciation to a pastor, congregational prayer and blessing given to someone headed to the mission field, or a public expression of honor for those who’ve served the church, such as Vacation Bible School workers or those in the music ministry.
I’ve worshipped in many different kinds of congregations during the last four-plus decades, and I’ve never seen a congregation regularly honor its family caregivers. During the pandemic, there has been a renewed focus on praying for front-line workers – and may that continue! But I’m thinking of those who often find themselves in the shadows of congregational life, caring for aging parents, children with special needs, or grandchildren. Because of their responsibilities at home, many aren’t able to participate in worship services or small group gatherings.
There are at least 43 million unpaid caregivers right now in the U.S. It is more than likely you’ve got some people involved in a caregiving role in your own congregation. I’ve wondered why more congregations don’t see the caregivers and the family members for whom they’re providing care as integral to the mission of the congregation. If they’re considered at all, they’re often viewed as a ministry “project” instead of as a vital expression of the congregation’s life.
One way to begin changing those perceptions is by finding ways to bless caregivers in congregational gatherings. (Of course, doing so should also lead to creative ways to support those caregivers the other six days a week, too!) To that end, I’ve put together a list of a few resources you might wish to share with leaders in your own congregation so when you gather, you can slot some time to pray for and honor the caregivers in your midst.
The beatitudes and a prayer for caregivers
A liturgy for blessing a caregiver’s hands (Catholic)
A liturgy for blessing a caregiver’s hands (ELCA)
A liturgy for the blessing of a nurse’s hands; can easily be adapted for all caregivers (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)
A prayer for blessing a congregation’s caregivers
Resources churches can use to support their caregivers (Methodist)
Does your church support its caregivers well? If so, tell us how!
Cover photo by Vladimir Soares on Unsplash
As a caregiver for five years, I can honestly say I would not have wanted any acknowledgement. I would especially hate what one of these articles suggested in having caregivers come to the front of the church to be prayed over. Not that I wouldn’t have needed and appreciated prayers–I just wouldn’t want to make a public spectacle of it.
What I wanted most from my congregation was thoughtfulness, understanding, and interest in the one I’m caring for. It meant a lot when one or two ladies would come of their own volition to visit for a bit. One lady wrote my mother-in-law notes once or twice a month for years. When even relatives seemed to act like she was already gone, it was so appreciated when someone would come and take time just to focus on her. Our church took one Sunday night a month to divide everyone up to visit and sing to “shut-ins,” and that was nice. But it was also just something on the church calendar that everyone did–so it meant a little more when someone came on their own.
There wasn’t much anyone could have done to help with her care. She was what they called a “total assist”–she couldn’t do anything for herself, even turn over. Since her care was specialized, we wouldn’t have felt comfortable just leaving her with a volunteer. But a meal, a gift card for a meal, a note saying we’re praying for you, we haven’t forgotten you, all would be great.
One thing that would really have helped was just understanding that the loved one is in a slow state of decline. People would greet us Sunday mornings with a chipper, “How is she doing?” We’d often say, “Okay,” or “About the same.” But sometimes we’d try to get across that she was declining. Then they’d blink and not know what to say. One man responded to that by saying, “Well, we’re all declining.” Sigh. What my husband felt like saying, but never did, was, “It’s like watching your parent die one brain cell at a time.” The people who most understood were people whose parents were or had been in the same condition. That makes sense–you don’t really know what is involved in care-giving unless you’ve done it.
I really appreciate your perspective! There are a lot of ways a congregation can support caregivers, and sometimes a public prayer can serve to invite the congregation to awareness and action. But that doesn’t negate the need for thoughtful one-on-one engagement like notes, visits, an occasional meal, or a gift card are all excellent ideas. Most of us are pretty good in an emergency than we are when the situation is chronic and ongoing. Thanks for this thoughtful feedback! – Michelle
My sisters and I, along with our husbands, have been caregivers for aging parents. There are many emotions involved as the roles changed. I am thankful for my family and the support we gave to each other. I am thankful for the love of God. He guided us in each moment.
Michelle, you raise such an important concern. In my role, or perhaps I should say calling, as a caregiver for my son, I was so appreciative of the lovely people who used to ask how he was. But I was even more appreciative of the those rare, precious souls who would also ask how I was