Churches encouraged to use ‘Connecting Neighbors’ guidelines to check in with vulnerable members

By Kristen Caldwell

Connecting Neighbors is a curriculum from UMCOR to help individuals, churches and their surrounding neighborhoods be prepared, should disaster ever strike.

Part of that curriculum is teaching churches to develop a communications plan, specifically one that helps them to connect with some of their most vulnerable members who they may not be seeing in church on Sunday or at weekly meals.

As the Coronavirus continues to threaten serious harm to vulnerable populations such as elders, those with underlying medical conditions and compromised immune systems, churches can adapt part of the ‘Connecting Neighbors’ curriculum to this situation by activating their phone tree or other communications plans to reach out via phone, text message or email.

Rev. Marshall Wattman-Turner, Abundant Health coordinator in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, said churches should be looking for those who are homebound, maybe self-isolating or under medical quarantine.

Churches can encourage, organize, train, and monitor all volunteers (including meals-on-wheels drivers or food pantry volunteers) to provide regular safety and wellness check-ins, he said.

“Besides providing essential human contact, these check-ins provide an opportunity to ask what assistance they may need in acquiring essentials such as people and pet food, medications, or other critical supplies,” Wattman-Turner said.

The Pacific Northwest Conference recently hosted a connecting neighbors training in Kennewick, according to Disaster Response Coordinator Kathy Bryson. She acknowledged, though, that it takes a while for the curriculum to sink in with a local church because of its holistic focuses on three levels: individuals, churches and the community.

“But if we need to make things happen, we can make it happen,” she said. “I’m not opposed to making phone calls.”

To learn more about Connecting Neighbors and upcoming training opportunities, in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, contact Disaster Preparedness and Response Coordinator Larry Johnson, 503-899-5431 or Connecting Neighbors coordinator Sally Blanchard, 503-802-9206. In the Pacific Northwest, contact Disaster Response Coordinators Dana and Kathy Bryson, 509-539-2978, or email Connecting Neighbors coordinator Terry Reddick.

For more United Methodist Disaster Response Resources, visit:

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