Tapping the Gifts of Homebound Leaders


People who must remain at home because of physical limitations have often been seen by the church as recipients of ministry rather than as active disciples. The healthy church engages these people in ministry that fits their life situations. Coordinating this ministry is a special leadership opportunity and can often be handled by a homebound person. Following are some ways to engage homebound leaders:

As prayer partners. Have a volunteer take a card with about four prayer concerns to homebound persons. Give them the card and ask them to pray daily for the next week on these particular concerns. Find out if they would prefer to get weekly updates by mail, phone, or email. (Do not give them a long list of names and then have no further contact for six months.) Give someone on the church governing board the responsibility to phone or send a note every few months thanking them for their prayer ministry. From time to time on Sunday mornings, as the pastor asks the congregation to pray, the pastor should remind the congregation of the ongoing prayer ministry of the prayer partners.

As letter writers. Letter writing is nearly a lost art; yet there is something special about taking mail out of the mailbox and discovering a real letter from someone. Some homebound persons are capable of and interested in a ministry of correspondence. They might start by writing notes to students away at college or to those in missionary or military service. If any members or relatives of members are incarcerated, writing to them can be an especially powerful ministry — not to preach at them, but simply to let them know there are people who care for them.

As phone chain members. A prayer chain is the most common type of phone chain; people pass along the congregation’s prayer concerns. These chains are especially active during emergencies. Another type of phone chain is one to share congregational information or provide reminders of important events. A third phone chain is one in which members of the congregation can check on homebound persons and homebound persons can check on one another.

As article writers. Homebound people may be invited to write the church newsletter. Those with good telephone skills can conduct interviews to gather information. Others may want to provide devotional material. Still others can provide the valuable service of proofreading.

As good-will ambassadors. Homebound people can be excellent encouragers. Most have access to telephones and many to email. As they learn of celebrative events in the church and community, they can offer congratulations. Their acknowledgement of births, graduations, job promotions, milestones, engagements, and weddings will be appreciated.

This article is excerpted from Susan and Ingrid’s new book Empowering Laity, Engaging Leaders: Tapping the Root for Ministry, copyright © 2012 by Judson Press. Used by permission of Judson Press, 800-4-JUDSON, www.judsonpress.com.

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About Author

Susan E. Gillies spent more than twenty years in leadership positions with American Baptist Churches USA, including directing the Ministry of the Laity in the Workplace program for National Ministries (now the American Baptist Home Mission Societies) and serving as Executive Minister of American Baptist Churches of Nebraska. She is co-author of Empowering Laity, Engaging Leaders: Taping the Root for Ministry (Judson Press, 2012.) In retirement, she now is a public speaker, newspaper columnist, consultant, and silversmith in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

Photo of Ingrid Dvirnak

M. Ingrid Dvirnak is editor of the Judson Press's Secret Place devotional quarterly, creates online workshops for ABHMS’ Church Life & Leadership series, and writes leader’s guides for Judson Press books. She is a recipient of the Judson Press Ministry Award for commitment to excellence in publishing ministry. She has authored two Judson Press books and an ABHMS book . She has written and edited adult study curriculum for Judson Bible Journeys and previously edited The Baptist Leader. She is the co-author of Empowering Laity, Engaging Leaders: Tapping the Root for Ministry, (Judson Press, 2012).