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Rallying round the rota – enabling those with dementia to remain on active service

May 12 2019


Church rotas may not sound like a matter of the spiritual realm, but surely blessed are the rota co-ordinators.  Putting a church rota together is no mean feat, requiring patience, technical skills, and often great diplomacy. Add ‘exceptions’ and ‘special considerations’ to the mix and one would be forgiven for thinking that were a bridge too far. Early in his first letter to the Corinthians, at verse 12, Paul identifies administration as a gift of the spirit. Sure, it’s not first in the list, but it certainly gets a specific mention.

For example, what happens if a person who has been part of a rota then becomes less able to serve in that role? Living with dementia – an acquired disability – is one such example, although there’s a limitless number of other reasons that might mean a member of the church family is less able to serve than in the past. This change in personal circumstance or compromised ability to serve prompts the question: what now? Should a person remain on that rota, or come off? Here are some ideas to get you started, if this is an activity you would like to consider at your church or setting. To start with, we need to ask a few more questions:

Time for a rota review?

First, does the person want to continue serving their church family in this way? Rather than singling out one individual, it’s good to have an occasional rota review for everyone, to give people the opportunity to serve in different areas of church life.

Second, could changes be made to support that person in their service? If someone would like to continue, the next step is to identify possible barriers that might be removed. For example, perhaps a person is no longer able to drive, but they would like to continue to read at church. Or perhaps the lectern is poorly lit, or the text in the Bible is too small. Once identified, each of these barriers can be addressed.

Third, beyond the logistics and practicalities of serving, it’s important to ask: what do we understand the purpose of participation to be? Is it to be slick, for people to see how efficient and well run our churches are? Or is it that as church we are family, all trying our best, all helping one another?

Time for a rota buddy scheme?

What else might be helpful? In some cases, an ‘alongsider’ or ‘rota buddy’ can support a person in their role, so the role can be completed together. This could work well in so many aspects of church life, including flower arranging, serving coffee, washing up, or being part of the Welcome Team.

Initially, changes can be thought of as awkward or a bit tricky; but in time can result in the whole church family rallying round to look out for a particular member of the church family as their dementia develops. This ensures everyone can keep being a part of, and contributing to church family life. Alongside one another, each of us can be helped to help. We may forget, but we are not forgotten. Still known and loved by God, still on the rota.

Don’t miss Livability’s new dementia resource, Journeying Together, which is due out in time for Dementia Action Week happening this year from 20-26 May.

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