Giving Thanks for Your Generosity

I recently attended training provided by Thrivent Financial called Engaging Generations Through Generosity.   During this training, they talked about the 5 expressions of generosity. As the presenter defined each expression it struck me just how generous you are in your work as a Kin Ministry volunteer. Kin Ministry volunteers fall into each of the 5 expressions of generosity.


Hospitality is defined as kindness.  Each time you visit a Kin and show them unconditional love or provide a non-judgmental presence you are being generous.

Emotional-Relational Support

Each time you make an intentional effort to be involved in someone’s life, to be a compassionate listener or to offer your support you are being generous.  Your work with Kin Ministry is a perfect example of the generosity expression called emotional-relational support. It is simply defined as being there.


We have heard the stories about the volunteer who grabs a small gift for their Kin, something they know their Kin will enjoy.  We know about the cards you send, the devotions you pick up, the cups of coffee your purchase and so many of the other gifts you give to your Kin. You don’t have to, it is not expected, but we know you are providing gifts to your Kin.  It doesn’t matter how big or small, your gifts are an example of you being generous.


This definition of Volunteering/Service reads just like the job description of a Kin Ministry volunteer and is just another example of your generosity.
Did you know that the Independent Sector reports the value of a volunteer hour is $25.43?

Monetary Gifts

Whether you donated to your churches Adopt-A-Kin campaign, paid for the gas to get to your Kin connection, or have given up a chance to work overtime you have provided financial resources to your Kin Ministry program.  This is just one more way you are being generous in your work with Kin Ministry.


Your generosity to those you serve is remarkable.  During this season of thanksgiving, we want to be the first to recognize you for your generosity and thank you for your commitment to those you serve.  I hope you will take some time this month to reflect on how you have positively impacted your Kin through your generosity.  Thank you for giving so much to those around you!


Interested in Learning More

Learn more about the 5 Generosity Expressions and take a free personal assessment to explore your personal generosity journey.*


*Please note you will be asked for your name, email and zip code.  Currently, I have not received any spam mail as a result.

Serving Your Kin Through the Holidays

You know the song…It’s the most wonderful time of the year!.  Well for many of your Kin,  the holidays can serve as a reminder of just how lonely they feel.  Here are a few ways you can help your Kin through this holiday season.

Blue Christmas

Not everyone is feeling excited and cheery about the holidays. We can help by acknowledging that Christmas isn’t the most wonderful time of year for everyone.  Consider hosting a Blue Christmas to reach out to people who do not feel the joy or excitement of the Christmas holiday. A Blue Christmas service has a more quiet and somber feel than a traditional Christmas service.  It often focuses on the comfort God offers during times of trial.

Discipleship Ministries, Building Faith and Nouwen Network offer some resources to get you started.

Kin Tree

During the month of October have your volunteers discover and then share with you something their Kin would love for Christmas.  Anonymously decorate your Kin Tree with those wishes. Then ask members of your congregation to adopt the Kin and their desired gift for Christmas. Collect the gifts through the month of November and early December.  Finally, in December, have your volunteers or the post office deliver these gifts to the Kin on behalf of the church.

This is a volunteer opportunity for those who prefer to volunteer without an ongoing commitment.

Card Shower

During the month of October collect donated Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year cards.  Then in November, provide volunteers with 5-6 cards and ask them to write a personal note on behalf of the church to the Kin, address and stamp the card. Starting a few days before Thanksgiving start mailing the cards, one per week, to the Kin.  The Kin should receive a card every week between Thanksgiving and New Years.

This is a volunteer opportunity for those who prefer to volunteer without an ongoing commitment.


The Holidays and Your Kin

Did you know not everyone looks forward to the holidays?  Amid the parties, gifts, cheery songs and good wishes, many people dread the holidays and are feeling more lonely than ever.  I know what you are thinking, summer just ended, I am trying to get back into the swing of the fall season and you are asking me to think about the upcoming holidays? The holidays tend to sneak up on us and are often very busy, which is why we need to be proactive and prepared to connect with our Kin through the holidays.

Five Ways to Connect Over the Holidays


  • One of the easiest ways to make your Kin feel remembered during the holidays is to send them a card with a short hand-written note.  This month create or purchase a Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year card.  Take a few minutes to write a message, address and add a stamp to the cards.  Then add calendar reminders to mail the cards about 2 days before you would like your Kin to receive the card.


  • This isn’t in everyone’s budget, but if it is in yours, arrange to have flowers delivered to your Kin over the holidays.  You can make the arrangements now so you don’t forget during the holiday rush.

Share the Taste of the Holidays

  • During your visit(s) this month, make a point of discovering your Kin’s favorite holiday treat.  Then, over the next few weeks, whip up a batch of their favorite treat and store them in the freezer until it is time for delivery.  It is important to note any dietary restrictions your Kin must follow before delivering food to your Kin. Imagine how excited they will be to know you remember their favorite holiday treat.

Extra Visit

  • One way to help your Kin combat loneliness over the holiday is to make an extra visit or two.  Your connections don’t need to be long, just enough to let your Kin know they are special to you and that you desired to spend some extra time with them

Make a Call

  • The holiday season is busy.  We know extra visits aren’t always possible, you may even have trouble getting your regular connections completed.  A phone call can be a great solution.  Plan to take 10-15 minutes to call and connect with your Kin over the holidays

The holidays are busy, so no matter how you decide to connect with your Kin during the holidays be intentional about it, plan it out and add it to your calendar. The important thing is to connect.

Why Tracking Connections on The Kin Ministry Platform is Important

Karen Lampe teaches us in “The Caring Congregation” that “In order to give excellent care, it is so important to build a recorded history.  This history will help the caregivers remember what has been offered and what might still be in order for care.  Missteps can be avoided and good decisions are more likely to be made to achieve the best care.”

Lampe goes on to say ” Everyone must be on board with communicating about what has happened so that no one is duplicating efforts.  Dates and participants in the care should be recorded.  Also important is the need for clear understanding about the confidentiality that is required around each situation.”

Reasons to Use the Kin Ministry Platform

For the Volunteer

Help Your Church Leaders: This is the number one reason.  Even if you don’t want to track your visits, please do it for this reason.  Volunteers who regularly use the platform to record their visits save their leaders valuable time, time that could be spent with someone in need. When leaders spend their time chasing connection information, they are not spending time in ministry.

  • Communicate Urgent Situations: Use the “urgent button”. in the notes section to quickly and easily notify leadership of an urgent situation.
  • Notes Section: Use the notes section to keep your Kin of having to retell their story and to show you care by remembering those things important to your Kin.
  • Accountability: When did you really make that last visit?  Your Kin is counting on you; receive visit reminders when it has been too long since a visit was recorded.
  • Confidentiality: Document your visits electronically in a secured location, with no paper records of visits floating around.

For the Leader

  • Ministry at a Glance: Real-time dashboard view of the state of your ministry
  • No one left behind: Automatic alerts when a Kin is being left behind.
  • Notes Section: Keep abreast of each Kin by reading the Kin notes section.
  • Prove You Care: Address claims that you didn’t give care to your congregant.
  • Urgent Alerts: Receive alerts when your volunteers indicate someone is in urgent need of your attention.
  • Accountability:  Provide monthly accounting of your ministry to your board, congregation, and community.
  • Time Saver: See at a glance who is in the most need of your attention, no more eating up valuable time that could be spent with a Kin by chasing paper and making calls.
  • Providing a Transition: Where there is new leadership, within your church or Kin Ministry program, you can quickly and easily get everyone up to date.

Leaders review these reasons with your volunteers at your next team meeting.  Often times when volunteers understand the importance of doing something, they are more likely to follow through on completing the task.

Silence in Conversation

“The word LISTEN contains the same letters as the word SILENT.”

-Alfred Brendel

Silence is Golden

Did you know it is a good thing for your conversations to have moments of silence? Silence, a form of non-verbal communication, can have a positive effect on your Kin relationship and can serve several purposes:

Full Attention: Waiting to be sure your Kin has finished shows that you are focused on what they are saying.

Share Completely: It gives your Kin a chance to add additional important information. It may give your Kin the reassurance to reveal something they were reluctant to share.

Time for Reflection: It gives you a chance to reflect on the information shared by the Kin and helps prevent misunderstandings.

Time to Think: It forces you to think twice about how you want to respond.

Silence is a normal part of the conversation, don’t feel pressured to fill the silence.  Allowing time for silence can be a powerful tool for a deep and meaningful conversation.


Leader’s Corner

Use this game to reinforce the concept of silence.  Volunteers will learn to let the speaker finish speaking and themselves to finish listening before speaking.

Count to 5

Why Train Your Volunteers

Did you know that volunteers who understand what is expected of them do a better job and feel more satisfied in their role as a volunteer?

Reasons to Train Your Volunteers

Set Expectations

  • Training your volunteers sends the message that there is a minimum standard that you and your congregation expect them to uphold. Additionally, volunteers who have the same training will perform tasks and respond in a similar manner.


  • By training your volunteers, you are making a statement that your Kin Ministry program is professional and capable of the important work of your visitation program.

Develop a Sense of Belonging

  • In addition to getting to know the people within your program, volunteers also appreciate the time, effort, and expense that goes into a solid training experience.  Knowing the training was done for their benefit makes them feel valued.  Completing the training makes them feel like they have done what it takes to call themselves a Kin Ministry volunteer.

Build Confidence

  • Training gives volunteers the tools and skills to confidentially perform their assigned tasks. It gives the volunteer confidence in their ability to go out and make connections with your Kin.

A “Weeding Out” Technique

  • Volunteers who commit to and complete training are more likely to live up to their connection commitments

The Power of Presence

As we make connections and build trust with those we visit, it is imperative that we become mindful of being fully present. The first step is taking time to prepare ourselves for a visit. During your training you learned the importance of creating space in your cup as part of your preparation.

Reflect on the following questions:

  1. What do I remember about the Empty Cup?
  2. What tends to fill my cup?
  3. How has my cup impacted my connections?
  4. Have I been taking the time to create space in my cup before, during and after a visit?
  5. How can I continue to create space in my cup in order to be fully present with someone?

So you have prepared yourself for the visit and created space in your cup, so what happens next? It’s time for the visit! Being fully present means listening with our eyes, ears and our hearts. Being fully present means “attending” to the person we are visiting. Remember the 3 S’s of attending?

  1. Space
    • Create space in your cup so you can be fully present to another
    • Create the physical space for listening to occur
    • If using the nucleus ensure you can see and hear each other
  1. Silence
    • Remember to embrace silence
    • It’s ok and necessary for you to engage in conversation with those you visit. If you encounter times of silence, try letting the silence “be” without attempting to fill the silence.
    • If you do not know what to say, let silence be your safety net
  1. Stay in the here and now
    • Stay focused on the person speaking
    • Avoid interrupting the person speaking in order to share your story or experience
    • Paint a picture for yourself of the story being shared with you
    • Visualize emptying your cup during your visit so you can attend to the person speaking
    • It’s only natural that you may find yourself getting distracted at times. If you find yourself getting back into your own cup or thinking about what’s next on your schedule you may find it helpful to
      • Visualize emptying your cup
      • Take a calming breath
      • Say a short prayer to yourself

The power of presence is a gift for you and for the person you are visiting! Blessings be upon you as you share the gift of presence.

Wirtten by Barb Schwery at BeFriender Ministry

Copyright © BeFriender Ministry—A Listening Presence, Bloomington, MN

Mixed Up Understandings

Some of the delightful voices I get to listen to these days are the voices of my grandchildren who amuse our family with the things they say. Things like:

  • Two granddaughters, dressed in new dresses from Grammy, asked her, “Grammy, can you tell us apart?”
  • While playing Scrabble, a granddaughter asked, “Grammy, is IQ a word? I think it has something to do with being smart, but I’m not sure.”
  • When dropping off a grandson and picking up a granddaughter, he asked, “Grammy, are you trading me in for my sister?”
  • While singing an old children’s song, a grandson asked, “What’s a telephone wire?”
  • While cuddling her pet a granddaughter asked, “When dogs hear us, do they hear barking or English?”

Listening to them, my heart and life is filled with the love and joy of those relationships, even in the midst of “mixed up understandings.” As I pondered those listening opportunities I got to thinking that in many cases the “mixed up understandings” come because of their seeing and hearing the world from their own eyes and ears, from their own life’s perspective. And I realized that in a sense all of us do that when listening to others. We therefore need to be careful so that what we are hearing through our own eyes and ears does not get in the way of what the other is really saying. And we need to remember that at the heart of listening is the relationship that can bring joy and fulfillment to both the one being listened to and the one who is listening.

In Mark 10:46-52 we read of Jesus’ healing of blind Bartimaeus. As Bartimaeus is shouting “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” the crowd yells out, “Be quiet.” That reminds me there are still many who are crying out to hear and see and be touched by the love, grace and power of Christ. And how often our own needs, or own “blocks to listening,” can get in the way of our hearing of others, missing opportunities to bring them into the presence, power and peace of Christ, and missing out on those deeper, joy and love filled relationships.

What also amazes me about the story is that Jesus does not assume to know what Bartimaeus is wanting. After stopping and asking to have him brought to him, Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

He was willing to ask a question, which can be a helpful tool in our listening as long as we use it for our deeper listening to others and not just for us.

Gracious and loving God, who listens to our every word and even hears the murmurs of our spirits, may you make us as ready and loving to listen to others. Keep us aware of those blocks to listening that can get in the way of our listening to others so that we might truly hear others words and even the murmurs of their spirits. And in that listening may they and we experience together the joy-filled loving relationships which you intend for all people. In your name we pray. Amen.

Written by Bill Gran from The Good Samaritan Society


Happiest When in the Presence of Others

Last fall Trinity was approached through the SD ELCA Synod by Good Samaritan Society (GSS), to participate in a pilot program of their Kin Ministry. Almon, age 87 years young, immediately came to mind when seeking someone to try the Nucleus video phone connection because of his outgoing personality. We approached his daughter, Robin (a member of our congregation), about the idea and she was supportive to the point of excited. She also knew of two family members in particular he would enjoy being able to see when he talked with them – his sister Sharon with health concerns that prevented them from visiting in person very often, and a grandson who had recently returned from serving in the army.

I had very recently completed Befriender Ministry training (Christian based, active listening) when I was paired with Almon. He is a resident of a local assisted living center and we began meeting once a month. After the Nucleus was installed for Almon, we were connecting almost daily. It was immediately obvious to me that being able to see one another gave more meaning to the connection for both of us.

He would question my appearance, making sure I was ok, and I could do the same for him. Almon quickly came up with the fun idea to add video-sharing the latest picture, game, puzzle or a seasonal decoration his family had brought to his room. He especially enjoyed entertaining us both by showing off his new musical, mechanical Santa. As a new member of Almon’s care circle, being able to connect through the Nucleus so easily and frequently enabled Almon to better remember who I was and know that I was someone with whom he could safely share both good times and bad.

Almon is truly happiest when he is in the presence of other people and Kin Ministry’s Nucleus component offers him a way to fill in many of the lonelier times of his day.

To be expected in any pilot program, it took us a little while to work out some of the technical bugs, but the Nucleus itself is ‘push one button to reach me, push two buttons to reach a family member’. A time or two I have been able to witness how special it is to add video to his calls with his sister and we are about to add his grandson to his list of connections. Almon is truly happiest when he is in the presence of other people and Kin Ministry’s Nucleus component offers him a way to fill in many of the lonelier times of his day.

Written by Debby Larson at Trinity Lutheran Church in Yankton, SD