On the show today we talk all about how to offer support from a distance.  Caring for people when you can’t be together.  So often we depend on face-to-face contact to care for others in our church and community.  The in-person connection is powerful, but sometimes that just can’t happen.  So in this episode, I will share 8 practical ideas that are simple ways your church can care and support your people from distance.





Episode 10: What to say when you don’t know what to say

Episode 18: 3 Pillars of Care Ministry

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Free download: 3 Steps to Building a Sustainable Care Ministry


Your body language and tone are key in building trust and rapport with your client, and having good rapport is a stronger predictor of success in counselling than the treatment approach or method used.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best methods, theories, or scriptures.  If you don’t have a good rapport or trusting relationship with the person you are supporting then your efforts will likely not be fruitful, baring a miracle or moving of the Holy Spirit.  

The relationship that you have with the person is more important than the method of support you use. 

So it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you connect, build trust, honour their experience and offer hope, you will have a positive impact

 If the relationship is more important than the method how do we support someone we don’t have a relationship with? 


    • While the relationship between pastor and congregant isn’t usually personal, in that you have regular conversations and shared experiences together, people still build a personal relationship with a pastor because they connect with them each week.  So even though as a pastor you may not have a personal connection with the person seeking support, they most likely have a connection to you.  They have built up trust with you and it doesn’t matter what method or modality you use as long as it is authentic and compassionate, it will be perceived as helpful.
    • Care is less about finding solutions and more about offering belonging, purpose and hope. Because let’s be honest, there likely isn’t anything that you could do that would remove the hurt, the suffering or repair what has been broken.  This is the work of God and the journey and process for the individual to go through.  What you can do in your support, even if you don’t know the person, is to build relationships and community.


8 ideas that allow you to extend support from a distance


1. Cards

Sending a handwritten word of encouragement, support and hope can be powerful for someone.   The written word is meeting many people love language; showing them that the church cares and loves them. And it can meet someone’s learning modality, in that they have greater comprehension and meaning from written words as opposed to spoken. 

Proverbs 16:24 says that a kind work brings healing to the house and healing to the body.

Sending a card or personalize letter takes few resources, but has a large impact. 


2.  Phone call

Talking on the phone is quickly becoming a lost art.  And to be honest it’s not my favourite.   However, having spent years working on a crisis line and more providing supportive counselling over the phone I have learned a few methods to make it feel less awkward.  

When you get on a phone call I recommend that you have four conversation ideas or topics.  

    • Community news/information – this is often a light conversation ie. church news, community events, etc.
    •  Have a few genuine questions prepped about their circumstances.  Things like “How are you coping?”  “What has been the impact?”  “When do you expect things to change?” Be curious.  This is where you are using active listening and validating and building trust.  It’s okay to go off into a rabbit trail.
    • Have something to share about yourself.  What you did this weekend, your favourite song right now. What are you looking forward to in the next week or month?  People often get tired of talking about themselves or the problem.  This back and forth sharing, builds the relationship and community.
    • Have an encouraging word.  It can be a word/statement, scripture, or song.  Something that you can leave with them that offers hope and strength.  

It’s important that you use wisdom and discernment in these phone calls.  If the person just lost a close family member, I don’t recommend you start the conversation chatting about your weekend plans.  But by having these four conversation topics ready you will be equipped to have a phone conversation that is short and encouraging to the person.


3. Voicemail

I quickly mentioned voice message but I want to highlight it for a minute as the third practical idea. 
A voicemail doesn’t just have to be a phone call. You can send a voice recording over messenger and email too.  Having mentioned that the earlier tone of voice adds 38% to the message communicated.  Sending a 2 minute recorded message is a way to share that you care and are supportive of them.


4. Start a Mealtrain 

I’m not sure if I’m new to this, but this year I have discovered mealtrain.com.  This is an easy way to set up meals to be delivered to people without the admin hassle and back and forth organization.  

Offering meals can relieve a lot of pressure and stress and they allow people to give in a practical way that makes both the giver and recipient feel like they are part of a community that cares.


5. Help in accessing resources

This is a huge need and not often thought of as a way to provide care.  When facing unexpected loss or hardship people often feel overwhelmed and during these times is when there are usually lots of appointments, meetings and issues that people need support with.    

People are suddenly faced with navigating systems and community resources that are foreign to them. 

Having a solid understanding of the resources available in your area and helping people find and access them is HUGE support to people and can relieve a tremendous amount of stress.

I have a free download available called 3 Steps to Building a Sustainable Care Ministry, and in that download, there is an outline of different types of resources in your community that people often need to access.  You can Download this editable list and build your resource network so that you can offer this much-needed support to your congregant.

With community resources, there is often a lot of paperwork to complete and appointments to attend.  Having a volunteer willing to help with completing some paperwork and applications is a huge help.   While it’s a bit tricky, this can be done on the phone or via zoom as well. 


6. Transportation 

While this care idea is still is offering support within close contact, it is one of the biggest needs for people.
Like I mentioned, unfortunately, tragedy often comes with appointments and meetings. Support with transportation or connection with other community organizations that offer transportation is exceptionally helpful.


7. Virtual groups 

With an increase of online resources and more people getting comfortable with using zoom or other virtual meeting software.  There is a growing interest in having virtual groups.   This can be something that your church can host, but also there are a few organizations.  I know of Fresh Hope and My Quiet Cave which are hosting virtual groups that are open to people across the country.   

I’m sure that these are going to increase in popularity because there are so few barriers so if a congregant is isolated there is a chance that a virtual group is available to them.  


8. Virtual Support  

While I, among most clinicians, agree that live, in-person sessions are ideal and best-practice, the benefits of having more accessible therapeutic session outway the small sacrifices. 

With video sessions, you still get feedback from body language, tone, and vocal cadence.  You are talking in real-time and can have a back and forth discussion just as in person.   You can access support from just about anywhere decreasing the barriers for those who are in smaller or more remote communities. 

I encourage churches to offer virtual support sessions as well.

Here are some key things to keep in mind when offering virtual support.  

    • It needs to be optional.  There were some issues and circumstances that are not appropriate for virtual support.  For example, those struggling with domestic violence or those who are elderly and not comfortable with technology.  
    • Sessions are often much shorter, and goals are smaller.   
    • In-person you can often have 45-60 minute sessions with more ice breaker chatting but I’m finding that virtual work is shorter, more goal-focused.  This can be a pro and a con.
      While this chatter can feel like it’s not productive, it actually builds trust and rapport which as we stated early is more important than the method of support.   So when you are doing virtual work try to fit in some trust-building chat, knowing that your session is likely going to be shorter.
    •  Be mindful of the environment.   While in an office there is a high level of privacy, but when in a virtual session there is limited privacy.  Other people might be nearby in the house or area so it’s necessary to ask permission to discuss personal matters.



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