Many people loathe December and January. Here in the northern hemisphere, these are the darkest months of the year. Chilly weather keeps many of us cooped up inside. Holiday parties can bring pain along with joy. People renew old tensions, unbury hatchets, and pronounce judgments on others. Perhaps even worse, some people sit home alone, uninvited to gatherings with loneliness blowing cold like a winter draft.
Many people fear the idea of visiting someone. We tell ourselves that we need to say the right things, to provide comfort, words of cheer, help them snap out of their funk. This fix-it mentality prevents many from making a call, and can ruin the good intentions if we do make visit.
Simply ministering Christ's presence will serve the other person much better than trying to fix someone. This busy season may not be the best time of year to try to train people, but then maybe it’s just the right time.
In some training sessions I have led, I used Companionship: a Ministry of Presence. Most participants have found it to be very helpful not only in reducing anxiety about making a visit, but also in giving them permission simply to be present. (You don’t have to fix anyone or anything. You just need to be a loving presence.)
A mental health chaplain for a lunch ministry, Kay Eaton, has conducted Companionship training with excellent results.
She notices that after she has conducted a companionship training, volunteers are able to relax. They stop expecting too much of themselves and of the interactions with people receiving free meals. They are more comfortable in their interactions, and that makes them more effective in engaging people. People who come in with a “savior complex,” expecting to quickly solve people’s problem, are the ones who drop out. Companionship seems to help people to get in touch with their common humanity with people they serve and with their own past struggles. (Interview with Kae Eaton, Mental Health Chaplain at the Community Lunch, Pathways to Promise Newsletter, November 2013)
Some of the people in your neighborhood, church, and community need a companion. They need someone who will demonstrate that the Word really has been made flesh among us. This training can help you and people in your church minister incarnationally.
Who are the people in your church and neighborhood who could use a visit? Does anyone, besides the pastor, spend a few minutes with them? Will you?