starting a group

Getting Started with A Touch of Hope Ministries.

We are delighted for your interest in this ministry and in the potential of working with you in starting a work to caregivers and their families.

No one willingly entered “Disability World” thinking it is the greatest place on earth, and no one waits in line to get a lifetime membership card to “Caregivers Unlimited.” Yet, the reality of these situations comes to life when one encounters any such adversity or hardship that necessitate the word, “caregiver” being used by members of one’s own household. Even more, our communities need to awaken to the reality facing them that there are an estimated 63 Million Non-Professional Caregivers in America, alone.

It was in one such setting that a God given passion was conceived and a dream born to offer support, encouragement and hope to caregivers and their families. The outcome resulted in the development of the ministry known as, A Touch of Hope Ministries.

It began with the passions instilled into one such individual, Dr. Tom Randall, who had been a pastor and pastoral counselor since 1976 and a seasoned caregiver since 1991 to his precious wife, Dawn. Although facing extreme, personal, adversities themselves, they learned and then found themselves offering their precious insights and help from the front lines of their own hardships with the sole intent of encouraging and offering help to Caregivers and their families.

The result found expression in their book, Caregivers: The Unsung Heroes of Our Day, which allows us to see into the homes of those affected by adversity through a different set of lenses, namely those who have traveled the path as the Caregivers.  The key to helping families who are adversely affected by life’s ills, centers on those who live in the shadows, namely: The Caregivers.

Further development brought about starting and building Support Groups for Caregivers and their families, where insightful discussions focused upon and offered the support, encouragement and hope that marks the ministry. Further development has now led to a web series by Dr. Randall and a study guide, for use by individuals and churches as well as community groups, in both community support groups and online support for the many that are homebound.

Whether you are a curious caregiver, a seasoned front-liner in the caregiving world or a concerned visionary looking to launch a ministry to encourage caregivers, then the following steps to offer hope and support to these heroes of the community, awaits you. Starting a support group, a very needed support group for any community, especially one focused on Christ, will serve to build lasting friendships and hope for all involved.

Steps to Building a Caregiver Support Group

Step 1

Form the initiating Team.

This can be done by merely recognizing one’s own passion to offer support, encouragement and hope to caregivers and their families. It begins with just one, owning the purpose and passion, to ignite the vision that now comes to life in offering an invitation or personal challenge to a few caregivers to join in initiating this support network.  Out of this comes the formation of a team whose mission then focuses on starting the support group.

Step 2

Conduct a pilot support group for caregivers.

This first group can vary in approach. It can utilize the initial hand-picked core of people or open itself to promoting the work with the intent of adding further interested participants. Because of the nature of a caregiver’s world, the team can choose to meet in person or online. In either case, it is here that the avenues ultimately open for meaningful relationships to develop.

Reaching out to gain support for the joint endeavor can lead the team to approach a church or community group that would sponsor the group by providing a facility and helping in the promotion. This is highly encouraged, though not essential to get started. Contacting a pastor or care pastor of a church, for example, can be an open and safe door for initiating the group. Just know that this idea of caring for caregivers may be outside the frame of many church leaders thinking, which is why this is so needed.

If a church or community group has been willing to assist in the vision to caregivers and their families, promotional work through the organization’s marketing avenues can awaken the interest in the Pilot group and ministry development. Another approach is to coordinate the beginning of this work in a community center where participants are facing these issues. An informative initial meeting coupled to conducting a pilot group then becomes a platform for creating interest in the group.

Obtain the book, Caregivers, the Unsung Heroes of Our Day, which will expose any reader to the immensity of the need facing caregivers and their families. It is strongly encouraged that every leader takes the time to read the book. This step enables the leader to have a general layout of the content, as well as prepares the leader/team to express how it was of value, personally. Secondly, exposure to the content opens an awareness to a vast ministry opportunity that has gone mostly unseen in our churches and communities.

Obtain the study guide, Caregivers: The Unsung Heroes of Our Day Study Guide & the 12-session web series, Caregivers: The Unsung Heroes of Our Day.

The combined series gives 12 presentations by Dr. Tom Randall that serve to challenge Caregivers personally to gain a healthy approach for handling their caregiving responsibilities, accepting the adjustments that affect all on this journey, as well process how being helped can open avenues to help others with what is learned. This study slows us down and challenges us to think and make the necessary adjustments to successfully handle the adversity that has entered our lives.

Some of the topics in the series –

  • Knowing the importance of caregiving in a family facing adversity/ hardship.
  • Understanding the cycle to adversity and how to handle its distinct effects
  • Addressing how to handle unwanted adversity and the immediate effects a crisis has on any Caregiver.
  • When crisis hits, understanding the “5 Non-Negotiable Adjustments” that are required of every Caregiver.
  • Insights for handling being a Caregiver, when no cure is in sight.
  • Explaining how we handle the “Why God?” question when life seems so unstable.
  • Essential Secrets to holding a marriage and family together when a household finds themselves daily facing an adversity or hardship in one of its members.
  • The Three Fingerprints of God in every adversity and learning how to “dust for” or detect those fingerprints.
  • And especially, “How to build a proper mindset for handling adversity.”

Start the pilot group.

Set and promote the first class meeting. The time frame of the class can vary, as caregivers probably already have a tight schedule. To meet bi-weekly or twice a month has served well for many, though weekly online groups have been found to be profitable. Use this initial class for letting the work bring out of the participants the recognition of seeing the value of this ministry to the participants.

It is often in this first group that the recognition of the need to accept support, validation and even relief for the Caregiver and knowing the need for trusted confidants and friends, comes to our awareness. Further development of the help from the group to others now begins lending to the development of a true support group. Again, gain an influence on the caregivers of a home and the major influence upon the direction of that home is affected one family at a time.

It is then from these influences that further development of an Online Support Group Ministry can now flow from experienced mentors brought up by the group. Another key will be in building what is referred to as the “Helping Hands Team” to assist those who are facing special needs.

Step 3

Develop a Helping Hands Team

To engage in the requests that come from people who need help from within a church community or community at large, this caregiver’s Response Team or Helping Hands Team becomes important to add to the ministry. For the leaders there is a need to be patient but anticipatory that people will rise up to meet the challenges that come with this support network.

Building the initial response team to handle the requests will include…

  • the need for case workers/mentors who can meet, assess and build a rapport with visitors or inquirers of the group. These people serve as the first responders to inquirers by providing assistance about the group and answering questions about their particular issues.
  • the need for a volunteer, medical personnel team who understand the different medical complications that people will face and can offer clarifications and assistance. Having these types of resource people for interaction is invaluable for the participants.
  • the need over time for building a personnel team to assist in the Mental Health needs: Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Children with Autism and special needs, etc.
  • the need over time for the building of a local resource and information team that can direct people to legitimate social services within the community: Neighbors in Need, Government assistance, Durable equipment supplies, etc.
  • the need for financial resource consultants to direct individuals to resources both public and private: Information from Federal Organizations that pertain to assisting caregivers and the disabled, financial consultants that can help individuals in their personal financial challenges, assistance in benevolence help and remodeling projects that often accompany these forms of challenges.
  • the need for a team of handy men and women who can assist needy families in building and remodeling one’s living conditions to better accommodate the challenges brought on by the disabilities/hardships.
  • the need for counseling by people who can identify and offer personal and spiritual advice for handling their situation.

Step 4

Starting an Online Ministry

“If they can’t get to church, then how do I get to them?” captures the sincerity of this step. Many caregivers find themselves being homebound, which prevents them from many outside activities, including groups. This step, however, opens a door for people with similar complexities to join a support group, online.

  • This step begins with selecting a mentor / facilitator with computer skills to direct the flow of the meeting online. To allow for healthy interaction by the participants, a group size of between 5-9 people has proven successful. This of course is only a suggestion and lends to each team to reach its own decision.
  • Also, the method of internet use can vary. Skype has been used by groups as well as Zoom (which gives 40 minutes of free time plus the ability to then reconnect for additional 40 minutes) and Zoom Plus that provides an unlimited amount of time for the group meetings at a small cost of $15 / month for the inviting leader, only.
  • With Zoom accounts the leader sends an invitation to the participants via an email that allows participants to join the leader at a designated time.

The time the group meets can be determined by the availability of the group, though a 1½ – 2 hour time frame works best.

An example of a typical class format is as follows. Again, this is only a suggestion.

  • 6:30 – 7:10 for homework discussion and interaction about the pressing needs of the participants.
  • 7:10 to 7:20 Break
  • 7:20 to 8:00 Leader sharing the video/webinar content for the session with participants all joining in online.
  • 8:00 to 8:15 (8:30) Brief interaction over the content presented and group prayer for needs that arose throughout the sharing times.

It is important for the mentor/facilitator to be looking for opportunities to assist participants in owning and applying concepts taught in the group as well as being a channel to assist participants in meeting needs that arise. Preventing dialogue from chasing down unneeded rabbit trails of information is a primary importance to the group’s success, as well as the needed respect for each other.

Development of a connection from the leader to the Helping Hands Team to assist people who are in need will also provide needed encouragement and support to all that are in need of immediate help.