HIV and the Church

Posted by Ashley Eure

The tone of your community is important to attracting and maintaining volunteers to your HIV ministry. If you are starting or growing a HIV ministry in your church, you help set the tone by the way you treat all the people your ministry touches. We’ve noticed that people need to feel 3 things when they come to our group – safe, valued, and heard.


People in Your Ministry Want to Feel Safe

When new people come to check out your ministry, they need to feel safe. This goes beyond physical safety to the idea of feeling safe in community. People joining our community may be harboring past hurts, preconceived ideas, or unspoken fears. We don’t always know how much courage it took for someone just to show up. For some people living with HIV, even the church environment in general may feel unsafe. For example, at our last ministry meeting, a new person showed up and the first question he wanted answered was: “I’ve heard people say that AIDS is a punishment from God – how do you feel about that?” Basically what he was really asking was, “Am I safe here? Will I be accepted?”

We help create an atmosphere of safety in several ways:

1.     Create a community of acceptance. I love what our Pastor Rick Warren says, “We don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand.” We want people to know that no matter your background or your walk of life, you are welcomed in our HIV ministry. We don’t have to agree on everything in order for us to care about you as a person. We care because Jesus cares! It’s important to note here that accepting everyone doesn’t mean that we have to change our beliefs or water them down to the common denominator – it means that even if we don’t share your same beliefs, you are still welcomed and loved in our community.

2.     Have fun! One of the most effective community builders we’ve discovered is playing games together as a ministry. It shifts the tone of meetings and creates opportunities for people to immediately jump in and get to know each other. We take God seriously, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously.

3.     Stop the gossip. Nothing can kill community faster than gossip. Particularly in a ministry where so many members carry relational hurts, it has been helpful to create an environment where we will not tolerate gossip. At Saddleback, we are big on the Matthew 18 principle – if you have a conflict with someone, take it directly to that person. If needed, invite a ministry leader to speak into the situation. If you are talking to someone who isn’t a part of the problem or a part of solving the problem, you may be gossiping. Stopping gossip goes a long way towards helping people feel safe to share in community.


People in Your Ministry Want to Feel Valued 

People want to know that their presence matters to your ministry. We try to find the right serving opportunity for every person who comes to us, where they can put their unique skills and interests to use in our ministry. Sometimes their serving sweet spot may not be apparent right away – it’s okay to let people “test drive” different service opportunities in your ministry to see what fits with their passions. 

Helping our members live out the purposes of God in their lives is our main mission, so we’re always looking for ways that our people living with HIV can serve and give back, even as they receive from our ministry. A great recent example is one gentleman in our ministry who is living with HIV and didn’t feel he had much to offer in terms of serving. When we asked him to help with follow up phone calls for the ministry, he realized he’s great with people and does a fantastic job helping people get connected by phone! 

When people do step up to serve, we try to make sure that service is recognized and appreciated. Time is one of the most valuable commodities someone can give to our ministry, so we recognize and honor people for giving of their time to the ministry. We do this in several ways:

1.     Thank you cards. Don’t forget the power of a handwritten note! In today’s world of a billion emails, there’s something special about the novelty of a card in the mail.

2.     Phone calls. Again, in the world of technology, don’t underestimate the power of picking up the phone.

3.     Food. There’s something special about sharing a meal that helps facilitate relationship.

4.     Leadership. If someone is consistent and reliable in serving, we always have an eye out for how we can empower them with greater responsibility. Helping members lead helps the ministry grow!


People in Your Ministry Want to Feel Heard

Everyone wants to be known. In our ministry we take the time to get to know people. We want to know their story. We want to celebrate their birthdays and major life events. We want to know how we can be praying for them specifically.

It’s all about relationship. People may come to your ministry because of a passion God has placed on their heart, but it’s been my experience that most people stick around because of relationship. We’re always looking for how we can foster those individual relationships where people feel known and understood. One of the best compliments someone can can give our community is, “I just feel so loved here.” 

In the end, its about people more than programs. Our HIV ministry will test out a lot of ideas, and some of them may work and some of them may not, but if we continue investing in people, the relationships will endure.


If you would like more information on how you can start or grow a HIV ministry in your church, call the HIV&AIDS Initiative at 949-609-8555 or email

Add a Comment
  • Mail To
//Recent Posts