The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Archive for Support Groups

MS Society Reaches Out Where People Need it!

My assistant Kara sent this announcement to me about how on Saturday, May 30, 2009 from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. the National MS Society, Oklahoma Chapter presents “What a Difference a Day Makes! MS Service Day!

I love seeing this kind of outreach to people with chronic illness because it helps them right where they need it the most — in the practical things.

The announcement says…

If you are living with MS and need a helping hand around the house, MS Service Day volunteers are here to help!

This MS Service Day will take place on Saturday, May 30, 2009 from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Volunteers from our Chapter will divide into teams and complete projects for or provide friendly visitation to people living with MS in Oklahoma.

Some of the projects volunteers can assist with include:

  • Yard work
  • Small household repairs
  • Cleaning gutters (1-story homes only)
  • De-cluttering house or garage
  • Painting
  • Cleaning out and organizing closets
  • Moving furniture
  • Packing and storing items in garage or attic
  • Heavy cleaning
  • Transporting donated items to thrift shop
  • Handyman chores
  • Running errands


  • A personal visit to your home, assisted living or nursing home.

Some people who have led HopeKeepers Groups in the past have said they have put out sign up sheets for (“healthier”) volunteers to be HopeKeepers Helpers and have had a good number of people volunteer.

I thought I would pass this along for those who live in the Oklahoma area. But I also wanted to offer the form they designed to figure out what people needed and cover insurance purposes as an example for those who may be organizing “helpers” in their church or community.


One of the things that I created at Rest Ministries, which offers a fun way to offer people help is our JOY (Just Offering You) coupons. These are a great resource for churches, friends, anyone who wants to provide a friendly tool to connect people who need help with those that can offer it.


ARTICLE: Checklist of 35 Steps for Support Group Leaders


Checklist of 35 Steps for Support Group Leaders

by Lisa Copen

Leading a support group can seem like an overwhelming task, but follow along with this simple checklist to cover all of the administrative tasks, and it will run much smoother down the road.

[1] Group’s purpose. Spend a few minutes writing a 1-2 sentence mission statement to help you clarify your goals.

[2] Group’s description: Clearly state what problem people are coping with and how your support group will you help fix the problem or at least encourage them.

[3] Personal motives. Take some time to ask yourself “Why do I feel I am the one to lead this group?” Make sure you really want to do it, and are not just saying yes to someone because you’ll feel guilty saying now, nor because you are seeking personal glory.

[4] Approval. Does your group need to receive formal approval from a higher source? If you are under an organization or company, for example, have you received their approval?

[5] Life of the group. How long do you wish the group to last? Do you want it to meet indefinitely and grow and change as members desire? Or would you prefer to ask people to commit for a period of time, like four months, and then recommit if they still want to meet?

[6] Frequency of meetings. How often do you want to meet? Weekly, bi-monthly, monthly? Consider the schedules of the participants. Would you rather have seventy percent show up once per month or thirty percent twice per month?

[7] Group outline. How will the time at your meeting be filled? Do you wish to have time allotted for people to share, pray, or network? Do you plan to go through a study or will you have speakers from your community come to share their expertise? What is your preference and your attendees?

[8] Location. Where will your group meet? Will it be a short driving distance for most people? Is it accessible for people with disabilities? Is the atmosphere comfortable or will members feel intimidated? It the lighting good? If it’s in a large building, like a hospital, will there be signs to make sure people don’t get lost? Will a receptionist know when and where your group meets? Do they know where to park and will there be a fee for parking?

[9] Attendance. Is anyone welcome at any time or it is closed? For example, are new members welcome for a certain period of time? Is membership required in another group to attend. For example, if it’s a group that a church hosts, are you expected to attend the church?

[10] Activities. Would the group like to have special times together outside of the group? Would people want to have a picnic or get together with family of the group members? How frequently would you have these outings?

[11] Guests. Can family members or friends come to the meetings? If the answer is yes, is this okay with other members? Is all right on occasion only, or on a regular basis?

[12] Projects. Do people wish to be involved in outside activities for the well-being of others? For example, does your group want to deliver gift baskets to people who are home-bound or provide a Christmas party for children in a low-income neighborhood?

[13] Policies. Have you written up some basic guidelines for the group? They should contain: a privacy statement, the expectation that everyone will be treated respect, how to handle conflicts, that the group is not for commercial use, etc. If you are an illness support group, you may want to be specific about how you will handle alternative treatment discussions and people’s desire to share their most recent “cure.”

[14] Handouts. What kinds of educational or brochures will be available? Can attendees bring handouts, and if so, do they need to get advance approval from your or someone else?

[15] Exchange of personal information. Do group members want their address, phone and/or emails distributed to other members as a directory to do they want it to remain private and give it out to people on a need to know basis?

[16] Promotion. What are your plans for letting people know about your group? If your group is formed under an organization, what forms of advertising are acceptable? For example, a classified in the local paper? An announcement in the calendar section of the paper? Flyers? Is there anything not allowed that you should be aware of and do the promotional pieces need approval?

[17] Media exposure. Can you write a press release? If not, be sure to find someone who can help! Explain the logistics about your group meetings, as well as the purpose for the group. If there are certain group members who may be willing to be interviewed by a journalists at some point in the future, keep that in mind.

[18] Videotaping or photos. Will your group allow you to videotape the sessions so people who cannot attend can enjoy hearing special speakers, etc. When should the camera be on? Off? Do they need to sign a release? Will any of it be posted online? Will they allow photos for the media?

[19] What kinds of promotional pieces do you need to help promote the group and who can design them? Things like posters, flyers, business cards, and stickers, can all be very useful in spreading the word about your group. Ask if anyone does design or digital scrapbooking for help and ideas.

[20] Online communication. Does your group wish to have a “hub” online to exchange information or encourage one another? Do they want something simple, like just email exchanges, or a social network setting available through a source like Ning?

[21] Online web site. Could your group reap the benefits of having a web site where you can to post a calendar of events, resource links, announcements, and more? You can design a simple blog for all of this information in a few hours for free. If you set up a web site you can easily share information you find online with your attendees from other resources or organizations. Through links, RSS feeds, online radio programs and more, your group can have a wealth of support that you cannot provide on your own.

Don’t miss out on the last 22-35 vital steps visit Lisa Copen’s chronic illness and pain support social network for leaders of support groups. Be prepared for the hurdles. Read Lisa’s book, ‘So You Want to Start a Chronic Illness Pain Ministry: 10 Essentials to Make it Work” at The Comfort Zone Bookstore or

Get a free download of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from “Beyond Casseroles” by Lisa Copen when you subscribe to HopeNotes ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa is the coordinator of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and host of Hope Endures Radio Podcast.