We know it’s hard. Not everyone is comfortable talking about their wishes for how they want to live until the very end. And, we know that values-based conversations about what matters most to people are the bedrock to starting early advance care planning. So how can we make it easier? By connecting with people where they live, work, and pray, we can reach individuals where they often feel most comfortable talking. Places of worship – sacred, safe spaces where values are readily discussed, shared, and supported – can be a great place to start.
Take a look at the below ideas and resources to help guide you on how to engage with (or across) faith communities.
Gather multiple Faith communities together and create joint programming
- The Conversation Project in Boulder County, together with five places of Faith in Longmont, CO created Thoughtful Endings, a five-part, nondenominational series of events. The five topics addressed across 5 weeks at each place of worship were health care decision-making, practical planning, aging solo, medical aid-in-dying, and your body after death.
Tie programming into existing ministries or focus areas:
- Read this recent story that share’s how Bethel AME Church in Boston created a ministry in keeping with the church’s focus on health and wellness. “Planning ahead” helps members plan for the end of their lives with a three-part program that is practical and spiritual. This piece also provides pivotal questions for others to consider.
Additional information on Bethel’s ministry can be found in this case study: Planning Ahead: One Church’s Journey to Normalizing Conversations about What Matters Most in Life, Death, and Dying
- Check out the wealth of resources that St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Columbia, MD uses in their Gift of Peace. The goal of this ministry is to provide information, guidance, and support to their parishioners and those that matter most to them so that wishes for end-of-life care may be expressed and respected.
Tap into the expertise and passion of hospital chaplains:
- Knowing that hospital chaplains are a great group to involve as they’ve seen first-hand how devastating it can be for families if they haven’t had The Conversation before a crisis, Jane Conrad, ACP advocate, educator and facilitator, reached out to local hospitals and hospice chaplains in mid-coast Maine to forge a partnership. Together they created a list of faith leaders in their surrounding catchment area to reach out to, distributing materials, ideas for speakers, and/or trained volunteers who could assist their congregants with preparing their advance directives. They also sent links to The Conversation Project website and Faith page resources as well as sending them a prepared informational flyer on having these conversations to use as an insert in their bulletins.
Pick a dedicated, set time period for faith groups in your area to share their faith’s teaching on this topic
- The Conversation Project used to host “Conversation Sabbath,” a national invitation on set dates each autumn to clergy to preach or teach on the vital importance of having The Conversation, sharing each faith’s teachings on this critical topic and supporting congregants in having the conversation in familiar settings, and not during a medical crisis in the ICU. While The Conversation Project is no longer officially rallying the troops, we encourage you to use this model to pick a time frame that works for your community to create some buzz together. Perhaps you rally around National Healthcare Decisions Day and host a local Conversation Sabbath to encourage collective action around April 16th.
And, we have plenty of resources and stories that will jump start or help you continue your efforts. Check out the plethora of resources found on our Faith page . A few samples are listed below.
Short case studies and blogs to learn from others:
- Lessons on Engaging Youth and Faith Settings as Conversation Catalysts
- Engaging Faith Leaders and Other Lessons
- Breaking Down the Barriers Between Medicine and Spirituality
- Why It’s Important to Bring Faith Communities and Clinicians Together
Webinar Series: Bringing Advance Care Planning Conversations to Your Congregation
Congregations are ideal settings for beginning to talk about what matters most to people when it comes to making decisions about the kind of health care they want and don’t want in the face of very serious illness. For six weeks, The Conversation Project’s advisor to faith, Rosemary Lloyd, hosted a free, web-based course on how to infuse having conversations about crucial, values-centered health care decision-making into the life and work of faith communities. (scroll down to bottom of this page for recordings and slides)
Getting Started Guide for Congregations
This guide is designed to help congregational leaders introduce The Conversation Project’s mission and free resources in the communities they know and serve. It is filled with examples of how diverse faith communities are encouraging their congregants to engage in thoughtful reflection and have conversations about their end-of-life care wishes with loved ones and health care providers.
What are you doing to engage with Faith? Please share in the comments below!