When Carol Hosmer found it necessary to temporarily drop out of her church ten years ago to deal with some family dynamics that were consuming much of her time, she discovered something uncomfortable.
It seemed that no one missed her. She explains: “It was a mid-to-large-size congregation and one where I felt very much at home. What I didn’t anticipate was that no one from the church, where I had been a member for ten years, would call to find out how I was and why I was not coming to church.
"The minister didn’t call, the Caring Committee didn’t call. It seemed that no one missed me or cared that I was not there. I asked the minister about this later and was told that if I was having a crisis I needed to contact the church. I responded that, when someone is in a crisis situation, it is not always easy to make that call.
“I truly believe that, in a church community, there should be some system of caring for the ‘flock,’ and of knowing when someone has dropped off the radar screen.”
Hosmer, now the office manager for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) Central Midwest District, said she almost left her church over this, but when her family situation eased she gave it another try. And she took it upon herself to develop a plan to make sure other people didn’t fall between the cracks. She called her plan the “Remembership Committee.”
Members of the committee will call every friend and member of the congregation three to four times a year. The calls will have nothing to do with a request for money or services, but will be simply to check on their well-being.
Committee members make a one-year commitment to call a list of names.
Items to be covered in each call:
- Check in to see how the person is.
- If they have been in church, acknowledge and thank them for their participation.
- If they have not been in church, acknowledge that and let them know they are missed.
- If they are experiencing a crisis ask if their church community can help in any way; run errands, transportation to medical appointments, etc.
- Ask if they have anything they want to communicate with one of the church staff, be it minister, treasurer, board chair, music director, etc.
- Let them know they are a valuable part of a caring community.
- Acknowledge their volunteer efforts.
- Remind people about the annual meeting or a special event in the congregation.
Tools for this process include a list of names and phone numbers and a script for the phone calls. If you get an answering machine or voicemail leave a message. It’s not necessary to call back unless you haven’t seen the person recently. In that case, try again.
Hosmer said, “Folks were very surprised and pleased to receive this kind of call. Members could feel that their presence and participation was truly appreciated and some were inspired to more fully engage in the life of the congregation.
“The goal of this program is to build a true caring community in which members feel good about themselves and their participation no matter at what level; to assure members that even if they have to be away from the community for a period of time that they are still cared about; and to help maintain and grow the membership rather than having people leaving by the back door because they don’t feel connected.”
Documents on how to form a Remembership Committee are available online.