Supporting those who are housebound

Author: Laura Neale

Published on: 16 July 2020

I am Laura and founded YouBelong, an organisation aiming to connect and support people with chronic illness and/or disability through the online community.

I was introduced to the concept of online church at university but wassceptical as I didn’t believe church could be done online. I am sure there will be readers who will be keen to return to the traditional format of church ASAP. However for some who are too ill to leave their home or have found churches to be inaccessible – not just the buildings but the language, traditions and theologies – this alternative provision will remain important.

I started YouBelong by creating a Twitter page, advertising it using hashtags #OnlineChurch #ChurchOnline #OnlineCommunity and #YouBelong. Others then found the page and started following and sharing their own thoughts and experiences with me.

At the end of last year, I won a Premier Digital Award for my blog, and this year I have been nominated for a National Diversity Award for the community aspect of YouBelong. Each person who has nominated YouBelong for this award has sent in a reason why they voted. I have included a couple here to show why online church, and especially community, is so important:

It’s a great organisation that has impacted me – through positively
supporting me and inviting me to be part of their community.”

“Such an important cause reaching those who often miss out due to a variety of reasons”.

Belonging is fundamental to human nature, so through YouBelong creating a platform for those who may find it harder to belong to a wider community, in turn, it is improving lives countrywide!” In the past few weeks I have seen churches offering great services and resources such as: Online worship – either pre-recorded or done live via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube (ensure you have appropriate licenses);

  • Online home group – done over Zoom or closed Facebook group which ensured that their discussions were kept private;
  • Online Bible studies – done using Zoom etc;
  • Prayer gatherings – done via Zoom or other service enabling multiple people to hear one another’s voices;
  • Alpha online – evangelism is very difficult at the moment but the resources have just been released on the Alpha website to enable churches to run Alpha online via Zoom, using social media to invite people to join.

Although it is great to include God in our time together, community is important and that can be achieved better by fun informal activities including:

  • Online coffee mornings – using Zoom to bring people together to chat informally with others they would have previously met in person;
  • Ready Steady Cook-style competition – gather names of people who would like to be involved, (this can be done via email, social media and/or phone), provide them with the same list of ingredients and challenge them to make something tasty out of it and send in a photo to be judged;
  • Book clubs – send out a text message/email each month with a book name (if possible, send out copies of the book either in the post or as an ebook) and meet (via social media or Zoom etc.) at the end of the month to share thoughts;
  • Quizzes – there are many ways to do this but I would recommend doing this live as it brings the community together in real time!

In the same way that some people are excluded by the church meeting, there will be people who cannot access online church, perhaps due to finances or lack of knowledge of technology. It is essential that we cater for them.

Two ways I have found to be very helpful are:

Twilio – which enables individuals to hear a recent sermon by dialling a phone number.

Telephone befriending and penpal schemes – both of which enable individuals to connect with others and check in on others who have little or no other communication with people. Telephone befriending schemes are really good at connecting people, but it is important to remember that some people cannot hear enough for a phone conversation so if possible, also offer them communication via letters (i.e.penpal scheme).

Please contact me if you need advice on types of provision, resources or advice in general at

The author...

Laura Neale

Director of YouBelong

This article is from...

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