Long Term Crisis: Who Do You Care For?

In long term situations, it will appear that the person in need of crisis care is the person on whom you expend all of your energies. But be careful, you may be neglecting others who are just as important.

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Consider Everyone In the Family

When responding to a crisis and looking long term, it is important to focus on the whole family not just the individual who is at the center. What kind of care and encouragement is being given to the spouse, the children, close friends and extended family? The suffering of the person at the center is also bringing suffering into the lives of those close to them. Pastoral care, prayer and encouragement will be needed for them as well. 

Pay Attention to the Specific Needs

Get a list of foods that the family can and cannot eat so when meals are brought, they are suitable. Consider child care, homework, school activities, housework, grounds upkeep, groceries, errands, paying of bills, and transportation. When interacting with the doctor and hospital staff, have someone designated to take notes for the family daily. Listen to their instruction with the family to help them hear and remember. Keep elders/deacons/pastors informed. In situations like this, remember that mistakes are inevitable. Learn and adjust along the way.

Remember to Care for the Care Givers

Go overboard in encouraging those who are in the trenches. 1 Peter 1:3-9 reminds us of how God is working in the present to refine us and help us grow. This is true of everyone involved. It is amazing to see the maturity produced in individuals and churches that have gone through intense, long term care situations. Given the nature of the situation, don't be surprised that relational tension rises to the surface. Encourage the caregivers to work at maintaining healthy communication and practicing forgiveness when necessary. In the midst of the trial one thing is certain - you and your church will not remain the same.

Final Thoughts

No church is perfect but a prepared church will respond better when these difficult
problems come. Though many will volunteer to help out in an immediate crisis, it is the
long term needs that strain the resources of the church and reveal its weaknesses. To keep love constant is a challenge but Christ calls us to meet the challenge with his help. Finally, make individual and group prayer a regular part of your journey together.

Helpful Resources

Here are three books you might find helpful as you think about these issues:

1. To Be the Hands of God: One Woman’s Journey, One Congregation’s Challenge,
by Judy Griffith Ransom and James Henderson, Upper Room Books, 1992. This
book puts you in the middle of a church that is caring for a woman dying of
cancer. Also, very helpful practical lists in the back of the book.

2. Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

3. Golden Book of the True Christian Life, John Calvin

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Long Term Care: The Obvious But Often Forgotten

As you care for a person or family in a crisis that is long term, there are many things to consider. Some are obvious and some are not. Here are some that may be easily forgotten.

Awareness of Financial and Legal Needs

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Insurance covers less and less medical care and very little in the way of counseling. In many churches, mission committees may have large budgets. Why not increase the size of the mercy/care budget to prepare for these types of crises? There are ways to set up funds for families to help off-set costs. It will be helpful to develop a filing system to help the family keep up with the bills. Consider bringing in a financial planner since it is going to be long term.

Seek the advice of a lawyer if needed. It is important to do this with the family’s permission. If possible, have someone from the small group present at these meetings to take notes so that nothing is forgotten.

Combining Word and Deed

This is a form of care that will be largely deed oriented. The longer it continues, the more the word component of care will become important. In general, unless you
are going to equip your care givers to speak wisely, it is best to encourage them to err
on the side of simply being good listeners. In the midst of long-term suffering there is a cry for understanding. It is here that we need to equip our people to give wise, time-sensitive, Christ-centered counsel as people ask the difficult questions. Helpers can never go wrong by focusing on the Psalms.

This may be an opportunity to teach and equip the broader body within your church. Again, have a trained person assist you in providing meaningful information along with a biblical perspective to help the caregivers think, act and speak in sensitive ways in light of the specific crisis issue.

The Importance of Scripture

The Bible provides guidance for sufferers to express themselves in godly ways and it pulls them out of the temptation to dive inward and become cynical. The following Psalms might prove helpful: Psalm 4, 18, 23, 27, 40, 42, 121, 130 and 142.

 

Copyright © 2013 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Phases of Care in a Long Term Crisis

One of the challenges of long term care is the gradual and difficult adjustment to the extent of the problem. The phases listed below were gleaned from an actual small group that had offered care to a family where the husband had a stroke and needed around-the-clock assistance for many months.

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Deer in Headlights This is the beginning of a crisis and requires a care group to be mobilized to help the family think clearly. Sometimes people even need to be reminded to eat! It is an opportunity for caregivers to step in and remind the family that not all is caving in and that they are surrounded by a loving community of believers who will shoulder the burden with them. 

This Isn't Going Away — The family and those involved get a clear picture that this is going to be something that will not be resolved quickly and will require long term care. This is where the small group needs to be involved. It is important to communicate to the family that you will be there for the long-haul and you need to mean it. There are people in your congregation who are at stages and seasons of life that can be more available (singles and empty-nesters) and it is a wonderful place for them to serve.

Settling In The small group and helpers begin to gain momentum. The family is out of crisis mode and beginning to adjust to a new routine. Although life has been radically disrupted, the family has adjusted and is beginning to take more responsibility for their own day-to-day needs. This is when the small group overseeing things will need to re- evaluate what the ongoing needs are, how they will be handled, and how to guard everyone from burn-out.

This Is the Way It IsAt this point, the small group needs to decide what the family’s ongoing needs will be and what the family can begin to do for themselves. It is also crucial to attend to the needs of those who have been caring for the family. This, to me, is where the elder and deacon in the group need to focus. They are there to care for the care-givers. This protects both officers and care-givers from burning out.

Remember that this is a long term situation. Having a sense of the terrain can help you navigate and be the best support you can possibly be for the family you are helping.

 

Copyright © 2013 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Small Group Strategy for Long Term Care

Small groups are typically a well established entity within the church. They become even more critical when a crisis/long-term care situation arises. With this in mind, there is a place for a unique small group which will provide simple, yet strategic care for a longer term need.

1. Identify a Group Leader For the Care Group

The point person not only provides leadership but also serves as a buffer and communication channel between the family and the broader body of Christ. The family is helped and protected by the small group. Based upon the length of time that care will be needed, it may be good to have two people working in tandem with one another as co-leaders. This will insure leadership when one leader is needed elsewhere.

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2. Invite Outside Expertise to Advise the Group
The care group should invite a trained person to help them understand the issue and
provide basic information and perspective on how the situation or crisis will affect the
person and family. The more information you gather at this level, the better. Depending on the nature of the problem, this could mean consulting a social worker, a medical professional, a counselor or any other specialist who may bring helpful perspective to the care needs.

3. Regular Meetings of the Care Group
It is imperative to evaluate on a regular basis. Have the point person bring concerns to the group and communicate information and questions back to the family. Good communication is crucial. This is why the relationships described in the concentric circle diagram (see previous post) are so important. The meetings can be reduced as the situation becomes less acute. 

4. Promote Healthy Communication

With the small group formed, it is vital that they communicate clearly with the
broader church about ongoing needs. They can also protect the family
from being overwhelmed during the early stages when everyone will want to help.
Many churches now have access to helpful electronic means where new information can be regularly posted. If there is no access, information in a bulletin insert may suffice. Another suggestion is to have a designated phone line with updates and the ability to receive information for those offering help. 

Designate a point person in the small group on a weekly basis. Make sure
everyone in the church knows how things are going to be handled and encourage participation in the way that has been outlined. Only emergencies should
bypass this process.

 

Copyright © 2013 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.