Programs for Those Who Have Lost a Mate
by: Stafford North | June 11, 2018
Of nearly every married couple, one of the partners will outlive the other. The surviving one will sometimes live only a short time, but in most cases will live for several years. Sometimes the survivor will live for decades. It is common for these remaining years to be filled with loneliness and regret. Families, of course, should take the lead in helping these widows and widowers, but churches also can help such people’s needs.
It is good news that many churches have special programs for those living in this situation. The listing here of things churches are doing can give other churches ideas about how to benefit those in their membership who have this need. A great ministry for any church, no matter the size, is to have particular individual or some group to take responsibility for doing as many of the activities listed below as possible. Without having someone whose special job it is, many opportunities to help will not be utilized and so the need will not be met.
Immediate care after the loss is very important. The funeral should be announced well so that as many friends as possible can attend. And a plan should be made to see that several friends follow up with visits.
Some churches have regular monthly meetings for those living alone. These provide times of fellowship and opportunities for a Bible lesson or a talk by someone who has good ideas to share about dealing with the loss of a loved one or some good activity in which they can participate. The meal can be a simple buffet which those who are able to do so can help cover the cost with a $4 or $5 donation. Often those living by themselves do not get out with others because there is no occasion that makes this easy. Monthly meetings can be very important times for these people to get together. These sessions can also provide opportunities for friendships to be developed which can put people together in between the meetings.
Another important element of working with those who have suffered a loss is to give them opportunities to serve. Many of these people have important skills which can be put to good use. To do this, some churches have a program called Monday Night for the Master in which people, not only those widowed, but many others as well come together for a work night together each week. With proper preparation to have the work lined out, these weekly sessions can give people the opportunity to visit shut-ins, to contact those who have visited the church, to write letters or emails to missionaries, to do clean-up work around the building, to make phone calls to those needing some attention, to grade correspondence courses, to help prepare materials for Bible classes or VBS, to make DVD’s of sermons, and to care for other needs that may come along. One of the best cures for loneliness is to have the satisfaction of doing something useful and these weekly meetings can serve that need. And again, these times provide a time for people who live alone to be with others. Usually these sessions begin with a simple meal about 6:00 p.m. the preparation of which can be one of the means of service for those needing something useful to do. And again, the cost can be met by those eating the meal.
There are, of course, other ways to get those living alone involved in service. Someone can visit with them personally to find out what they are interested in or have capability for and then that person can match them with whoever in the church might be working with a program which has a need for them. Some have served as greeters, others as church secretaries, others as drivers to take those too old to drive to medical appointments and to shop, and others to work to clean-up or in flowerbeds around the building, or to help maintain contact with missionaries. Some are capable of working with children’s Bible classes or doing Bible studies in jails. Giving them a sense of purpose and usefulness is extremely important. And for many, having a useful way to occupy the time is very important.
Another opportunity some churches give is to have an occasional dinner for widows and widowers which is served by the youth group. Sometimes elders and maybe deacons with their wives are invited to come to sit at each table to encourage the honorees and to answer questions. A short encouraging Bible lesson can be part of the program along with some entertainment. Those living alone often do not have the opportunity of going to a nice banquet and such events give a sense of connection and recreation. And this is a great opportunity for young people to serve as well.
Other churches use the need for exercise as an opportunity to work with those who need contact with others so once or twice a week they provide the opportunity for exercise. It may be a time of walking around inside the building or in an available gym. They may also do some simple exercises, many of which can be done just sitting in a chair. I know of a twice-a-week exercise program for Parkinson’s patients which lasts for an hour with about forty-five minutes being exercises while sitting. These include arm exercises with weights, bending and stretching, and even sticking out the tongue and rolling the eyes. The exercise is good, but so it the opportunity to get out of the house and be with others.
Whatever methods you choose, put these good news ideas into action in your church to help meet the needs of those who have suffered the loss of a mate and others living alone. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul speaks about widows and gives good instructions about them. He says it is good for younger widows to marry again and for the church to care for widows who are over sixty and have no one else to care for them. For her to qualify for this help, however, the widow must have been a good servant to the church, devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. So we need to help provide these with opportunities. He also speaks of the temptation for those living alone to be idle and thus become involved in bad things.
So, the good news is that an increasing number of churches are providing useful programs for those living alone and many other churches should have such programs. Think about those in your congregation who might need help and what you can do about it. If your church does not currently help supply this need, take the initiative in the right way to get something started.