8 Nonreligious Reasons a Church Can Aid in Recovery

July 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Rehab and Recovery

The best conversations between my wife and I occur on Sunday afternoon.  This past Sunday, we had a long conversation about the purpose of life.  On its face, such a conversation might seem totally ordinary.  It is not.

Two years ago, my wife suffered unexpected tragedy.  The trauma included stroke, cardiac arrest, and traumatic brain injury.  The prognosis for such a trauma did not include walking, talking, or rational thought.  We were told that we’d be lucky to make it out of the ICU alive.

I guess she was one of the lucky ones.  Not only did she leave the ICU… she kept going until she made it all the way home.  Hospital living just wasn’t for her, so she worked tirelessly to strengthen herself enough to live safely in her own home.

Life will never be the same as it once was.  A trip to a store, restaurant, or friend’s home must now be weighed against the potential obstacles.  Our family includes three kids, so our activities must be entertaining for the kids AND accessible for the adults.  What would once have been a night out to a restaurant is now a take-out meal eaten in the dining room.

Leaving home now requires so much more planning and forethought than it ever has in the past.  Adjusting to this new life means less activity outside the home.  Whenever possible, we bring the activity to us.

There are some trips that are still worth taking, and the absolute best one is available every Sunday.  It scores high marks for its consistent schedule and accessible location.  This activity encourages growth and recovery in many ways.  Attending church is one of the best things you can do to encourage recovery.

Here are eight great reasons to attend church, even for the nonreligious


1) Lots of Handicapped Parking

I’m sure you know the feeling of driving around a crowded parking lot.  When someone pulls out of a great spot, circling cars approach like vultures.  If you’re lucky enough to have perfect timing, the available spot becomes yours.

When dealing with a handicap, favorable parking is even more important.  The stress that comes with looking for a parking spot can be great enough to keep us away from an outing.

Every church I have been to subscribes to the Emma Lazarus sonnet:


bring me your tired, your poor


Churches have an abundance of handicapped parking.  This is an unspoken invitation for tired, poor, and handicapped people to come on in.  Walking across the entire parking lot is a journey that can add a lot of stress to an otherwise simple outing.  The abundance of handicapped parking sends the message that everyone is welcome here.


2) Ease of Obtaining Assistance

Church is one of the only places where strangers will go out of their way to make life easier.  The people there will go out of their way to help others.  Without even asking, we are frequently offered help in parking the car, walking in, and managing the kids.  A trip to the mall, store, or restaurant requires more planning because we simply don’t anticipate any help.  Church is the one place where assistance is offered virtually every time.


3) Feeling of Community

The best kinds of friends are those that support and challenge us.  Seeing the same faces each week allows strangers to turn into acquaintances… and acquaintances into friends.  The most valuable currency in a post-trauma life is motivation, and there is nothing more motivating than feeling like you have the support of others.

Not only are we accepted for being different, in church we are LOVED and RESPECTED for it.  In a social situation, we often ask friends and family to adjust plans to make our life easier.  The loss of speed, strength, and mobility has put some activities out of reach.  It is easy to feel abandoned as we are forced to sit home while friends go out and enjoy activities we used to partake in.  In a church strangers are liable to strike up conversations and socialize.  The handicap is no longer a wedge between us and others… in church it is a magnet that draws them in.

Every day, the caretaker must motivate themself as well as the recovering patient.  Coming up with new ways to motivate is exhausting, and activities that result in automatic motivation are worth pursuing.  Knowing that there are people hoping to see you each week is automatic motivation.  Seeing familiar faces and discussion with friendly people are compelling reasons to get out the door and into a church.


4) A Reason to Dress Up

Let’s face it, we judge people by the way they look.  As much as they teach about love and acceptance at church, it is difficult to accept people who forgot to shower and remove their work clothes before showing up.

A day spent at home is an invitation to forego the “mirror test.”  It is a day where one can wear pajamas or a bath robe and feel perfectly comfortable.

For a victim of a major trauma, days spent at home are an anchor on the recovery.  These types of days seduce one into a sedentary lifestyle… days where a patient may question whether it is worth it to spend much time taking care of themself.

Church is an antidote to laziness.  It is a reason to get dressed up and get out.  It is a time that encourages quiet reflection.  The best catalyst for recovery is getting out there and participating in a variety of activity.  The act of getting ready and going to church is a great one to stimulate both body and mind.


5) Ask and You Shall Receive (asking for help)

The limitations of traumatic recovery extend far beyond just one’s own personal limitations.  Life is now compressed by social and financial limitations.  Physical limitations make some activities implausible… friendships build on these activities begin to wither.

Financial limitations can be even more limiting.  How on earth can one continue to live a similar lifestyle when downsized income meets new medical costs.

For a severe trauma, going it alone simply will not work.  People who are not able to fend for themselves find their life fading quickly.  Although the trauma may affect your ability to interact with people, procrastinating in asking for help results in disaster.

Community organizations are good places to look, but perhaps the best place is your local church.  You will not find people more generous or willing anywhere else.  Whatever your needs are, a local church can either help or refer you to someone who can.


6) Offers of Unsolicited Help

Too proud to ask for help?  The mere fact that you have begun to show up in church will begin to attract attention.  People will quickly notice your physical handicaps and offer to help.  Take them at their word, for they really mean it!

These are the kind of people who will go out of their way to build you up.  Not only will they help you navigate into and out of the building, they’ll also be willing to contribute in social or financial ways as well.  Be honest with yourself concerning your needs and don’t be afraid to share everything that would make your life better.


7) Support groups/activities

Even if “church” really isn’t your thing, a church community is one of the first places to look for support groups or activities.  Their mission is to help, so they’ll take your call seriously regardless of whether you’ve ever been a member of their community.

Cold calling an organization and asking for help & advice can be intimidating.  When life was normal, this never would have been necessary.  In your post-trauma life, things are no longer normal.  Church people believe life to be important and precious.  That is the exact mindset you want from the people you’ll be asking for help.


8) Time for Quiet Contemplation

The average stroke and tbi victim has a living situation is quite different than it was before the trauma.  A home that was once neat and orderly can quickly become a magnet for clutter and distraction.

Experiencing life outside the home is advisable in all but the most severe injury cases.  If the home itself doesn’t encourage quiet thought, then church may be the perfect antidote.  In addition to the normal church service, many churches leave their doors open at other times throughout the day.

Entering an empty sanctuary is like entering a new world of calm.  Steps on the floor echo throughout the sanctuary and remind you that you have entered a special place of quiet reflection.  Thoughts turn into prayers as time melts into a relaxing aura of calm.  The trivial fades away and is replaced a notion of life and its greater meaning.

If community is more your thing, then the church service presents an equally valuable experience.  The daily worries of medication and pain are shrunk down to their proper size.  The topics here are challenging, hopeful, and inspiring.


Every trauma victim needs help, community, and love.  These needs are present every hour of every day, and no one caretaker can possibly meet all of the needs while at the same time living their own life.  There will be times where you need additional help.  Churches exist to help fill that void.  If you have needs that aren’t being met, I strongly encourage you to get up right now and give your local church a call.

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