Online technology offers exciting opportunities for churches to reach out to people who cannot attend services or activities due to illness or infirmity. Here are a few suggestions for ways in which technology can help churches reach out to people who are homebound or otherwise unable to manage regular church attendance and include them in the life of your parish.
Please note that in many of these cases, it helps if people from the parish communicate to both homebound parishioners and their caregivers about these opportunities, since some of these parishioners may need help accessing technological offerings. It can also help for homebound parishioners to enjoy these opportunities in community with others from the parish. Watching and discussing sermons and Christian education opportunities online can offer a rich focus for a pastoral visit — with the added benefit of being able to pause the activity and return to it later if necessary.
Remember that it won’t do much good to use these resources if homebound parishioners don’t know about them. It’s important to keep reaching out and ensuring that home-bound parishioners and their caregivers are aware of these resources if you want to reach them.
- Post a transcript of your sermon on your church webpage or on social media. You can post a transcript of your sermon in many ways — as a blog post or as a PDF file to which you link on your website or on social media. Home-bound parishioners can read the sermon on their own, with caregivers, or as part of a visit from clergy or parishioners.
- Post video or audio recordings of sermons on the church webpage. People who cannot attend church may have access to some forms of worship — nursing home services, Lay Eucharistic Minister visits, etc. — but it can really mean something to a homebound parishioner to enjoy hearing the clergy from their home parish preach a sermon rather than just reading a transcript. Record your clergy’s sermons and post the audio or video recording to your church’s webpage. Here’s an article showing how to post an audio recording of a sermon online. Here’s one showing how to post a video or an audio recording of a sermon online.
- Use online courses to reach out to people who cannot attend parish activities. You can include homebound and infirm parishioners authentically in parish activities by making some of the parish’s Christian education opportunities available online. ChurchNext courses are one way to reach out in this way because they are available online, can be taken at each participant’s preferred pace, and include opportunities for online discussion with other parishioners. You might also consider utilizing webcasts for adult forums, lectures, and other educational opportunities, particularly in larger parishes. You can earmark some courses as live and some as live and available via webcast and “market” them accordingly.
- Live-stream your church services. This step involves more work and may be more practical mainly for larger parishes, but live webcasts can be an excellent way to make home-bound parishioners feel connected to their home parishes. The clergy can welcome homebound viewers as they do parishioners who are physically present and generally make them feel included. Here’s a page on how to get started webcasting your services.
- Teach homebound parishioners how to use online resources. Some homebound parishioners will know exactly how to use internet technology, and some won’t be able or willing to do so. Others, however, particularly elderly parishioners, may be fully sound of mind and still unclear on how to use many resources on the internet. Appointing someone from the parish to reach out to these parishioners and teach them how to access your church’s online offerings is a good way to include them effectively in the life of your church community.
Does your church use technology to reach out to homebound parishioners? Please comment! We’d like to hear what you do.